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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Criminal HIV-transmission charges dropped against suburban man
by Matt Simonette
2017-04-21

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Criminal charges have been dropped against a Wilmette personal trainer who last year was accused of criminal transmission of HIV.

Prosecutors for the Cook County State's Attorney Office, on April 20, said they would be dropping charges against Jimmy Amutavi, who was last year charged with three counts of criminal HIV-transmission, which is a class-2 felony. Three women accused Amutavi of having condomless sex with them without telling them he was HIV-positive.

But Amutavi has long been on a Treatment as Prevention ( TasP ) medication regimen and his viral-load is suppressed, said Amutavi's attorney, Jon Erickson.

Studies show that an HIV-positive person with a suppressed viral-load is highly unlikely to transmit HIV. A 2016 study of 1763 HIV-positive individuals, published in New England Journal of Medicine, found no incidences of HIV-transmission once a person become virally-suppressed, for example.

Legal experts and rights-advocates question how and why someone accused of criminal transmission would try to pass the virus along while taking a medication to suppress it. That idea opens a loophole in Illinois law, which says that transmission must be intentional in order for it to be a criminal act, according to Erickson.

"It is clear that my client did everything possible to prevent transmission of HIV by taking anti-retroviral meds, and I am tired and angered that I must continue to defend people who are publicly prosecuted for merely having a manageable disease," Erickson said. "You simply cannot have the criminal intention to transmit a disease when that disease cannot be transmitted."

He also said that the prosecutors in the case met with an HIV-specialist at Evanston Hospital in order to get the most up-to-date information before proceeding with Amutavi's case.

"I congratulate the State's Attorney's Office for their open-minded willingness to listen to my arguments and to make the considerable effort to educate themselves on the medically accepted fact that HIV cannot be transmitted when the viral load is suppressed or undetectable," Erickson added. "Justice was served here."

Amutavi told Windy City Times, "I'm thankful to my attorney for fighting for me, and to the prosecutors for recognizing that I am innocent. I'm relieved for myself and my family. I'm just looking forward to moving on with my life."


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