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Cicero officer facing HIV charge, AIDS advocates react
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times
2013-03-15

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A Cicero Police officer is facing a charge of criminally transmitting HIV, a charge that AIDS advocates say relies on stigmatization and misinformation on HIV.

Officer John Savage, 38, of LaGrange Park, is of accused of engaging in sexual activity with a 24-year-old man without disclosing his HIV-positive status.

According to a statement by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart's office, Savage and the man went to a movie July 29 last year and then engaged in sexual activity at Savage's home. Later, the release says, the man asked Savage about his HIV status and Savage revealed that he is HIV positive. The man contacted LaGrange Police.

Savage was arrested March 13 and has been released on an I-Bond. He is scheduled in court March 21.

AIDS advocates have long opposed criminal transmission laws, noting that exposure to other diseases is not criminalized.

"People with HIV become demonized basically as people that are spreading diseases," said John Peller, vice president of policy for AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

Peller said that science has shown that for people receiving HIV treatment who have undetectable viral loads, there is not a risk of transmission.

Further, he said, transmission charges are hard to prove because they often rely on personal accounts of non-disclosure.

"It becomes a 'he said, she said' case that is extremely difficult to prosecute and is often unfair to the person living with HIV," said Peller.

Details about the particulars of Savage's case were not included in the statement put out by police.

HIV transmission laws in Illinois were tightened up last year after work by AIDS advocates, making prosecution in HIV transmission cases harder. Under new rules, prosecutors must prove that a person intended to spread HIV, did not wear a condom and engaged in insertive anal or vaginal intercourse.

But Savage will be prosecuted under old law, confirmed Tandra Simonton, spokesperson for the Cook County State's Attorney's office. Because the alleged crime occurred in July and the new law took effect Aug. 21, those exemptions will not apply to Savage's case. His charge is a Class 2 felony.

Savage could not immediately be reached for comment


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