Officer David Lacey of the Dearborn Police Department made headlines last week after a settlement was reached from a lawsuit filed by Shalandra Jones, a woman he berated and ticketed during a traffic stop for being HIV positive.
Lacey not only became upset at discovering Jones’ status after finding her HIV medicine in her purse, he told her he was only giving her a ticket because she didn’t disclose her status as soon and he removed her from the car to perform a search.
The traffic stop was initiated after Lacey saw a car, driven by Mark Scott, with a burnt taillight.
Jones, who was a passenger in that car, was removed along with Scott after Lacey noticed the smell of “weed” coming from the vehicle.
The Michigan cop began to perform a search on the car and came across bottles of prescription pills in Jones’ purse. He then asks Jones what the pills were for. She immediately told him the pills were to treat her HIV infection.
At that revelation, Lacey’s demeanor totally changed and he can be heard telling Jones that she should have disclosed her status, how upset he was about the fact that she didn’t disclose and how he didn’t want to bring any of that HIV home to his family.
Lacey seemed to think that he could catch HIV from Jones’ earrings that he had touched with ungloved hands while searching her purse.
Unfortunately Lacey’s irrational fear of HIV is not uncommon, even after more than twenty years of research has proven that HIV is not transmitted by touching objects used by HIV infected individuals. It is safe to eat after a positive person, it is safe to hold hands with a positive person and it is also safe to kiss a positive person.
His fears, of touching or even getting poked by Jones’ earrings is also irrational since HIV only lives outside the body for a very short time and because the odds that an earring will have fresh blood, stick him deep enough through his skin and have enough virus to infect him, are astronomical.
Here are five things that Lacey got completely wrong about HIV during this traffic stop
- Michigan law does not require HIV positive people to disclose their status to anyone other than their sexual partners.
Michigan.gov has an informative resource for determining the requirements for disclosure by health care providers as well as infected individuals when it comes to HIV. Even though there are several guidelines for the medical professionals obligation to report new infections to the proper state agency, there is only one statute that applies to the infected person according to the site.
“Michigan law states that it is a felony for an HIV-infected individual, who knows he/she is infected, to engage in sexual penetration without first informing the other person of the HIV infection. “Sexual penetration” is defined as sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, anal intercourse, or any other intrusion, however slight, of any part of a person’s body or of any object into the genital or anal openings of another person’s body, but emission of semen is not required. The statute is silent about the use of barriers in this regard.”
- You can’t get HIV from touching someone’s earrings.
As discussed before, the odds of all of the necessary elements to cause an infection by even getting stuck by the earring, including fresh blood, a deep stick by a blunt object, and a high amount of virus present, are astronomically insignificant. Lacey had no reason to worry about this negligible risk and no reason to feel Jones needed to disclose. According to Aidsmap.com.
“Biologically, four conditions need to be met for transmission to occur: HIV (as a whole virus or as a provirus – i.e., within cells that contain its genetic material) must be present in an infectious body fluid from the HIV-positive person; it must be present at sufficient levels to cause infection; there must be an effective route of transmission; and virus carried to another person via this route must reach susceptible cells in the other person.”
- That Dearborn is not immune from HIV. Statistics from Wayne County, where Dearborn is located, had a reported 1,980 cases of HIV/AIDS infected individuals according to 2013 Michigan statistics. With new diagnosis in Wayne County averaging around 75 each year, the number is likely around 2000 by now. More Michigan statistics can be found here. No city is immune, not even Dearborn.
- That kicking down doors, walking through dog shit, and being around the homeless places does not place someone at an increased risk for contracting HIV or Hep C and bringing these viruses home on his clothes. Incredibly, Lacey seems to think he should compare his risk on this traffic stop to kicking down the doors of crack heads and IV drug users. Neither of these scenarios put him at risk for catching either viral infection. These are the risk factors that can:
- Sexual exposure
- Via the use of non-sterile injecting equipment.
- From a mother to her infant.
- Via medical use of blood products.
- A person who is on an HIV regime and has an undetectable viral load is at a much lower risk for infecting others to the virus.
Remember, the HIV virus has to be at high enough levels in the infected person’s blood to easily infect another. Anti-Retrol viral medication, when taken as prescribed, lowers the virus to undetectable levels in the body of those living with HIV. This cocktail of protease inhibitors, non-nucleosides, and other viral inhibitors has led to the decline in deaths by HIV as well as the possibility that those patients will infect others. There would not have been enough of the virus on anything sharp in Scott’s car to cause risk of Lacey contracting HIV.
It is hard to believe that in 2015 there are still people who are so uneducated about the HIV virus and how it is transmitted but this video is a clear example of it. People who live with the virus continue to face discrimination based solely on their status and whether or not someone finds out. The ignorance lends itself to the huge stigma HIV positive individuals face and the reason people put off getting tested or fall out of treatment, both of which only increases the spread of the disease. This ignorance and stigma is also the reason people, who are not required by any law to disclose their status, don’t.