June 3, 2009
Everyone knows that HIV is dangerous, but does that make transmitting it a form of assault? A Texas jury has ruled yes, in finding Philippe Padieu guilty of six counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon: his body fluids. As the Dallas Morning News reported on May 30, Padieu was sentenced by a jury to 45 years in prison.
Despite the lengthy jail term, this case differs from a recent ruling in Iowa in which a judge sentenced an HIV-positive man to 25 years in prison for not disclosing his status to one sex partner. In that case, the accuser tested negative and the HIVer pleaded guilty, so many view the sentence as unfair. Padieu, on the other hand, withheld his status from multiple women, infected six of them and placed the blame entirely on their shoulders while maintaining his own innocence. DNA evidence was used to prove otherwise.
The TV news show 20/20 plans to do a "full report" on this story in an upcoming program. Given the dearth of in-depth discussions regarding HIV on television, it's hard to imagine how 20/20 will manage to avoid sensationalism and provide a balanced, reasoned look at the issue of HIV discrimination laws in the United States. At least the comments on the article provide some wise perspective on the story. (Sadly, several comments also provide the opposite.)
Read the full story from the Dallas Morning News and add a comment below to tell us what you think about this ruling. Was the jury right to give Philippe Padieu such a hefty sentence? What responsibility did the women he infected have to protect themselves? Will 20/20 do a fair job with its upcoming TV report?