Last Thursday, police arrested 53-year-old Lybette Dunn on charges of trespassing, and obstructing traffic by standing in the road. But after Dunn spit toward the front seat while sitting in the back of the police car, she was charge with criminal transmission of HIV, too, and reportedly put in jail.
Per the Broward County Police report:
The spit struck the back of my neck, right side of my face, right arm, and throughout the interior of my vehicle. After dealing with the defendant through arrest [sic] defendant is known to have multiple diseases. This exposure was report [sic] to the on-duty supervisor, and this Deputy was treated for said exposure.
HIV cannot be transmitted through saliva, which is why the sorts of offenses listed in the state HIV transmission statute include sexual acts that would involve the transmission of semen, or violent acts that would involve the transmission of blood.
But this is not the first time individuals have faced severe criminal punishment for allegedly HIV-infected spit. In Texas, a man is serving a 35-year prison sentence after his saliva was deemed a deadly weapon. And an HIV-positive man in Michigan faced a bioterrorism charge for alllegedly biting a neighbor, although the charge was later dropped.
Outdated understandings about how HIV is transmitted have led to a host of policies that ostracize HIV-infected individuals and disproportionately affect the LGBT community. Until recently, isolation of HIV-positive inmates landed many individuals sent to jail for even short-term stints in maximum security prisons, and HIV criminalization laws exist in some 39 U.S. states.
Dunn was held in jail on $1,000 bail, according to CBS Miami.