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Marion County, Ind., Officials Charge Five People With Knowingly Selling Their HIV-Positive Blood Plasma

July 21, 2003

Officials in Marion County, Ind., on Thursday charged five people with allegedly selling their blood plasma despite knowledge of their HIV-positive status -- the first such cases in the county, the Indianapolis Star reports. The infected plasma, which was sold to two Indianapolis blood collection centers over the past two years, was identified through routine HIV testing, according to Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi and state Department of Health officials. Under state law, knowingly transferring contaminated body fluids is a Class C felony, and the five suspects, who received $20 per collection, could face two to eight years in prison if convicted. Brizzi said that the suspects lied about their HIV-positive status and "put thousands at risk" as a result, according to the Star. Health officials waited until the plasma centers confirmed that the suspects were the plasma suppliers, then they filed charges with the prosecutor's office, according to Michael Butler, director of the state health department's Division of HIV/STD. Roger Rayl, spokesperson for the prosecutor's office, said that additional charges could follow, particularly if investigators discover that the individuals sold their plasma more than once while they knew their HIV-positive status. Although Brizzi said that he thinks that laws regarding HIV-positive people knowingly putting others at risk should be stronger, Butler said, "My greatest concern is if individuals start seeing behaviors related to being aware of your HIV status as being the subject of criminal action, then individuals will just stop being tested. Then we have the problem of not just one person's personal health, but the risk of their exposing numbers of other individuals to the virus" (Kightlinger, Indianapolis Star, 7/18).

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