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News

Small Michigan Community Advises Residents Over Alleged Escort With HIV

January 1, 2015

Law enforcement and health officials in a small Michigan community are speaking to the media about a woman who they allege is living with HIV and engaged in commercial sex work.

The unidentified woman is alleged to be working as an "escort" in hotels in Gaylord, Michigan, police in the community told the media on Dec. 29. She is one of five women who police claim are working as escorts in the community of just over 3,500 residents. No arrests have yet been made as a result of the ongoing investigation into what police have called "prostitution rings."

The tiny town is located in Northern Michigan, along I-75, the main highway artery feeding hunters, sportsmen and vacationers to the state's mostly wild upper peninsula.

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Sergeant Frank Claeys told Fox 32 that the agency had decided to release the information even as it continues to investigate the alleged escorts.

"Our biggest concern is the spread of HIV or AIDS to unwilling unknowing people who had nothing to do with this incident. It obviously can travel beyond the people who knowingly participated in any kind of illegal acts," Claeys told the television station. Neither police spokespersons nor Police Chief Brett McVannel was available Tuesday for further comment on the case to TheBody.com.

Local law enforcement declared the situation a "public health issue."

Dan Reynolds, spokesman for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, told Fox 32 that, "Anyone having unprotected sex can spread HIV. That should be scary to people. It's that easy to spread."

However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the risk of an HIV-positive woman transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative male sexual partner during vaginal sex to be four infections per 10,000 exposures. Oral sex does not have a risk hierarchy listed, with officials at the federal agency noting it is "low."

When asked by TheBody.com, Reynolds did not confirm that local health authorities had been engaged in the case.

"The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is prepared to support investigations that may occur within our health district," he wrote in an email in response to an inquiry. "However, we do not have any additional information on the news reports coming out of Gaylord at this time."

Reynolds also said HIV was a public health issue for the department, but declined to state whether a person living with HIV engaging in sexual activity -- even for commercial purposes -- was a public health threat per se.

Under Michigan law, the health department has the ability to declare a person with an infectious or contagious disease a health threat to others and mandate a variety of interventions, from counseling to confinement for treatment for up to six months at a time. Reynolds refused to comment to TheBody.com on whether or not his department had issued any "health threat to others" orders in the past six months.

Law enforcement can also use Michigan's HIV specific criminal law, which prohibits any sexual penetration, "however slight," without disclosure. The crime is a four-year felony in Michigan.

Todd A. Heywood is a freelance writer based in Lansing, Michigan. He specializes in writing about HIV policy issues in the U.S. Find him on Facebook and @ToddHeywood on Twitter.


Copyright © 2015 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.


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