Opinion: Judge shows remarkable ignorance about HIV

CHLP Deputy Director Mayo Schreiber penned an opinion piece in response to an article in The Morning Call (Lehigh Valley, PA) calling out Northampton County Judge Leonard Zito for hyperbolic language and doing a disservice to people living with HIV.

Opinion piece published in The Morning Call on January 12, 2016:

Judge Zito's comments about HIV case insensitive

I'm responding to the quoted comments of Northampton County Judge Zito in the Dec. 23 article that describes a defendant's sentencing for reckless endangerment for not disclosing his HIV status to his partners. Judge Zito states: "This ranks as the most cowardly of human acts … what Ricky Webster did, was to steal the lives of these young girls." Such unmeasured language does an enormous disservice to people living with HIV and victims of other crimes.

I am not condoning the defendant's actions. However, by now modern testing would have established that these women were HIV positive if in fact they were infected by the defendant. More importantly, HIV has long been a manageable condition that, with appropriate treatment, allows for a healthy and largely normal life span.

The women in this case were not physically harmed. Their lives were not stolen as if they had been murdered or assaulted. By using such language, the court shows remarkable ignorance about HIV and insensitivity to the many thousands of Pennsylvanians living productively with HIV, while minimizing the impact of actual assaults and injuries committed against women.

Mayo Schreiber, Jr.
New York, N.Y.

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Link to opinion piece (1/12/16):
Judge Zito's comments about HIV case insensitive

Link to original story (12/23/15):
HIV-positive man who had unprotected sex with three women gets state prison