ACLU Urges Calm and Caution, Warns Against Witch-Hunt In Escalating South Dakota HIV Transmission Investigations

May 3, 2002 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of South Dakota
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SIOUX FALLS, SD — As 18-year university student Nikko Biteramos of Huron faces several counts of having sex without disclosing that he has HIV — and with an Aberdeen man set to appear in court today facing similar charges — the American Civil Liberties Union today said state officials and the public should proceed with concern, calm and caution.

The following statement was issued jointly today by Jennifer Ring, Executive Director of the ACLU of the Dakotas, and Matt Coles, Director of the national ACLU AIDS Project.

“Intentionally spreading HIV by having unprotected sex without disclosing HIV status is reprehensible. But the situation in South Dakota needs to be approached calmly and intelligently. In this country, we investigate the facts and hold fair trials before deciding people are guilty. We have far too many recent examples of cases where our system has rushed to judgment and been wrong. There is a reason the framers of our Constitution insisted on due process of law.

“The way to fight the spread of AIDS is not to throw out the Constitution and start a witch-hunt. It is to be clear and honest, and to get people who might be at risk — and might be putting others at risk — to test themselves. Public officials should encourage people who have any cause for concern to get tested and assure them that their right to privacy will be respected.

“No criminal prosecution, no matter how vigorous, will reverse an HIV infection. For many today, urging abstinence from drugs and sex is the preferred message. But if that supplants straightforward explanations of how HIV is transmitted and how to prevent it, needless infections, anguish and suffering will inevitably result. Respecting the Constitution won’t hinder the effort to stop HIV — it will help.”

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