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October 23, 2008

Outrage! NC DJ Arrested for Having Unprotected Sex (Updated)
FILED UNDER: "Fucked Up Bullshit"
TAGS: barebackHIV / AIDSHIV-positiveNorth CarolinaRaleigh
By Trevor

I don't even know what to say about this story. I know this person from my years spent in Chapel Hill, going to the gay bar in nearby Raleigh, Legends. I'm upset by a few things:

1) That he was arrested in the first place. Criminalizing sex and HIV-positive people's lives is not only unethical but a dangerous practice that will undoubtedly stoke the flames of hate and stigma against Poz people.

2) That Q-Notes (Charlotte's gay newspaper) published his photo. You should know better! I'm so fucking disappointed about this decision. It's no different that newspapers in the 1950s posting photos of gay men arrested for having sex.

3) That his engaging unprotected sex is license for them to order him to a "psychological evaluation." The message is clear: you have to be crazy to have unprotected sex or not disclose your HIV status. But in a climate filled with stigma and hate against Poz people, it's no wonder that he didn't choose to do so.

That's only the tip of the iceberg, I'm sure. Why do you think he didn't disclose to his partners in North Carolina? Oh that's right, because HIV is so stigmatized there that Poz folks there feel like lepers in the community. We know so little from this story. Were his partners negative? Did he top them?

I'm so upset about this. It makes me want to cry and scream and vomit all at the same time. I don't just want to write a letter about this. I want to intervene in some way. To call the system out for its injustice and pathologizing actions. I'm disgusted. And sad. Deeply sad.

Here's the "story" from Q-Notes. I've bolded the parts that piss me off the most:

A gay disc jockey in Raleigh originally convicted of violating HIV infection regulations in August has been placed on house arrest after admitting he broke probation orders in early October. On Sept. 6, Q-Notes reported that Joshua Waldon Weaver, 23, who works in clubs in Raleigh and Wilmington, pleaded guilty to charges that he failed to disclose his HIV-positive status and engaged in unprotected sex with three people. Weaver was given a suspended jail sentence and placed on probation. The terms of his probation ordered Weaver to use protection when engaging in sexual activity.

About two weeks ago Weaver was arrested after Wake County Public Health officials contacted his probation officer with information that he had possibly violated court orders by having sex without a condom. Assistant District attorney Boz Zellinger told The News & Observer that health officials became aware of the DJs violation after he contracted another sexually transmitted disease that could have been prevented by the use of a condom.

Weaver could have faced 40 days in jail for his most recent violation, but District Court Judge Jacqueline Brewer instead sentenced him to six months of electronically-monitored house arrest. He will not be allowed to leave his fathers house except for probation-approved employment. Brewer also ordered Weaver to undergo a psychological evaluation..

If Weaver breaks his probation again, he will face up to 25 days in jail and prosecutors will ask for a two-year quarantine in a state prison hospital.

His behavior hasnt changed, Zellinger told the Raleigh newspaper after the hearing. Were trying to address the callousness his actions have demonstrated.

Zellinger added, Its not a witch hunt. Its a desire to change his behavior to benefit the community.

Weavers attorney, Evonne Hopkins, who declined to speak with Q-Notes for our original Sept. 6 story, said shes confident we will not be back here.

Josh is very sorry were back in court, she said.

North Carolina Administrative Code 10-41 and North Carolina General Statute 130A-144(f) address control measures regarding the spread of HIV and require those with communicable diseases including other sexually transmitted diseases, hepatitis and tuberculosis to comply with measures intended to curb their proliferation.

Weaver is only the second Wake County resident in 15 years to be sentenced for failing to follow laws governing the transmission of communicable diseases, according to The News & Observer. In 2007, only 16 people statwide [sic] were convicted of violating the communicable disease law. Rather than HIV, many of the instances were related to diseases such as tuberculosis or hepatitis.

UGH! This people don't fucking get it!

UPDATE: From the comments section of the Q-Notes newsstory. Looks like Q-Notes will be providing some feedback on their coverage in an upcoming editorial on Nov 1st. I've been rankling them in the comments and on of course here on my blog. I hope this will be a positive (so to speak) move:

Trevor, et al.,

Q-Notes will be publishing a staff editorial addressing this issue in the Nov. 1 print edition. The editorial will also appear online the same day.

In case there is some confusion, please note that this story, as noted in the text, is a follow-up to a Sept. 6 article:

Raleigh man pleads guilty to HIV health law violation.

We encourage concerned readers to guard against making conclusions that are not supported by the facts as reported in this story, in the Sept. 6 report or any other report by other news agencies. Further, we encourage readers to also guard against making personal and/or ad hominem attacks against the subject of the article or those participating in community discussion on this website.

Q-Notes reserves the right to remove or edit obscene, unsubstantiated or overly offensive remarks or comments. We remind our readers of our websites terms and conditions.

I encourage those with concerns and questions to contact me directly via phone (office, 704-531-9988, ext. 208) and email (editor@q-notes.com).

Thank you,

Matt Comer
Editor, Q-Notes

PERMALINK | Posted at 4:53 PM | Post a Comment (12)

12 Comments

Hideous....I agree whole-heartedly, Trevor.

I also can't get past the point that he got "caught" because "he contracted another sexually transmitted disease that could have been prevented by the use of a condom".....first of all it's a bit presumptuous that an STD infection is immediately proof of unprotected anal sex when most every infection can also be transmitted orally....or is it the state of NC's position that HIV+ people must use condoms for oral AND anal sex? (which isn't, to my knowledge, really in keeping with safer sex messaging out there coming from most anyone who knows anything). And for that matter if STD's are included in this code they're using to convict him, then do they now do partner tracing to find the person who gave him this most recent STD and arrest that person, too? Talk about barriers to accessing testing and care? Or participating in a partner notification process to keep your sexual partners healthy?

It's also particularly problematic that a queer publication would run with the story in this way...it's bad enough that queer men and HIV+ men get defiled by the mainstream...but to have our own community legitimizing it! *barf*

We live in a scary scary country!

Erik Libey | October 23, 2008 7:23 PM

I agree with Erik on the STD transmission piece. Any HIV-informed clinician could have ripped apart that argument.

Even scarier for me was the thought of a medical quarantine. WTF. Suddenly I get images of Dustin Hoffman in a HazMat suit.

Marcus G | October 23, 2008 9:46 PM

Trevor,

Perhaps you recall talking with me, perhaps not. While I share some of you concerns here, particularly the issue of stigma of HIV positive gay men (even here in Michigan), the reality here is a two fold concern:

1. Beyond the question of the risk to the community Mr. Weaver is causing with his unprotected sexual activity, there remains a serious question about his own mental health status. Why? Engaging in unprotected sex, as you know, puts a person at great risk for not only STI's of the bacterial type, but also for additional strains of HIV, including HAART resistant strains. I worry that Mr. Weaver is not participating in a kind of self destructive cycle caused by the negative impact to self esteem from the rejection HIV stigma causes for those of us who are HIV positive. I see his behavior as self destructive as much as I see it as socially destructive.
2. When we have a person who is suicidal and mental health professionals and law enforcement determine s/he is a risk to themselves or others, we have laws to lock them up for our and their protection. Why is what Mr. Weaver is doing any different?

I also think there is back story to this case, as well as the issue of HIV stigma and HIV prevention failures as well. Where is the discussion about the substance use in the case? Where was the STI which clued health professionals into his failure to use a condom? If it were oral, then the who gay men's community should be having the conversation about protected oral sex. If it were anal, then there should be a discussion about the lack of recognition of STIs in the anus in the medical community, let alone in our community. And if he had it in his penis, then there is also a conversation that must happen regarding the partner who infected him. Did this other partner now about the infection? Did that partner inform Mr. Williams about it?

Also lacking in all of the coverage of this case has been what his viral load is/was, his CD4, active involvement or lack of it in HAART treatment, etc. All of that information should play into the decisions made by public health officials in such cases, as they are all cofactors in HIV transmission.

In short, this question is far more complicated than it is currently be presented. Should Mr. Williams picture have been published? I remain torn on that issue, but I certainly believe the story was absolutely of interest to the public, and necessary to be told.

Todd Heywood | October 23, 2008 10:45 PM

What's with the recent coverage of HIV+ legal cases for having unprotected sex? I barely follow this issue -- though I should more, I know -- and there have been three in the last week. One in the Netherlands, one in Ontario, and now one in North Carolina.

It's sick, really. This whoel thing. First off, laws like this take the blame off some theoretical victim of crime. I'm sorry, despite all my bad behavior in the past, I am still acutely aware that I was in that room, as well, when I had sex. I made those decisions not to use condoms (even if I wasn't in my right mind, I cannot in good conscious say that I wasn't thinking "I shouldn't be doing this). But I made those decisions, and it would have been my fault, not the other person's for not saying anything.

Because, guess what, we all know that it's out there, as well as 9 other "major" STD's, and 40+ "minor/sometimes" STD's. Maybe you don't know the in's and out's of how they work, but to claim that no one told it was possible and that you should use a condom is intellectual laziness and downright unethical. Period.

Second, the treatment of these cases is disgusting.

Third, Mr. Weaver is actually half way attractive. But that's neither here nor there.

Fourth, to Mr. Heywood who commented before this, I have to say this: this is stigmatization. His own personal reasons aside for doing what he is doing -- what gay man hasn't involved himself in a self-destructive part of their life -- all this does is make it harder for people to say "everyone should be tested." Especially now when they can be prosecuted if they are.

And as for the STD's and how you get them -- newsflash, and I'm sure the NC law is written this way, that it is not "having sex without a condom" that is against the law... it is "having sex without disclosing your status." Any sex. In Ohio, there was an interesting letter to the editor I read years ago from a lawyer that said: what about digital sex (mutual masturbation)? The way most of these are written, they don't take into account transmittability.

It's just... they had "sex."

(DAMN IT... I was doing a post on this story too, and I think I just wrote out my whole post... LOL I may just copy this comment)

QueerCincinnati | October 24, 2008 2:16 AM

Blah blah. I posted reactions, but, more interestingly, is the law itself:

http://ncrules.state.nc.us/ncac/title%2010a%20-%20health%20and%20human%20services/chapter%2041%20-%20epidemiology%20health/subchapter%20a/10a%20ncac%2041a%20.0202.html

Tell me what you think, Mr. Hoppe. I think there's something in there that will get your blood boiling.

QueerCincinnati | October 24, 2008 2:49 AM

Todd -- you've just fallen into the trap. The only narrative we have to understand unprotected sex is that a person doing it must be "self-destructive" or "crazy." It may be that this individual could benefit from therapy or similar interventions -- but we must reject the claim that this is necessitated by his behavior alone. We have no idea what his partners knew or didn't know, what kind of sex they had, and what the context for that sex was. In short, we don't know squat about this person, and we should avoid coming to conclusions about his mental health.

Trevor Hoppe | October 24, 2008 8:30 PM

First, I agree with you about this story and how honestly terrible that these things still occur in 2008.

Also, I wanted to say that I am a huge fan of this site, especially since i just live in Kzoo, MI.
Anyway, thanks for the constant update in reality!

Sean | October 25, 2008 12:17 PM

Thanks, Sean! Always glad to hear from a fellow Michigander!!

Trevor Hoppe | October 25, 2008 12:25 PM

Trevor,
Many thanks to you for the dialogue I've read between you and my partner, Steve, regarding this similar topic. Steve's interest in HIV issues, responsibility, and how this is affecting our community and the world at whole has really affected me. Reading your correspondence about this specific issue led me to your blog and I feel compelled to respond to your editorial on this subject.

Much of the conversation from other posts on this topic seems to border on gay activism, personal, and emotional response. I agree that some of the issues with which you disagree in Brewer's case are points of very divided debate, but ultimately impinge on his civil rights. Two very simplified but crucial examples, on the other hand, are very relevant and crucial topics.

Where I feel your arguments for Mr. Brewers case and societal infringement on his human rights fall short lie entirely in the concept of responsibility. First and foremost, Mr. Brewer was in violation of the terms of his probation. Regardless of whether he stole a car or had a night of unprotected fun, he was conditionally released from incarceration by the terms of his probation. Rules are rules, if all involved are in agreement. Mr. Brewer obviously disregarded the terms to which he himself agreed.
Second, last, and most important to me, is the fact that he failed to act responsibly and disclose his HIV status to his sexual partners. Wouldn't you want to know if your sex partner had any disease that was communicable? I would - be it a cold, chicken pox, or HIV - and I'm confused by why anyone would disagree. Where the waters become muddy, however, lies in the assumption that anyone would engage in unprotected sex with a partner about whom he knows nothing prior to that encounter. I strongly feel that Mr. Brewer should have disclosed his HIV status to his partners to give them a choice in the matter.

Why isnt safe sex an issue any more? Mr. Brewer received an STD, bringing this case to public light, which could have been prevented with a condom. Why does he have the right to unprotected sex while potentially spreading an incurable not chronic, as our community seems to currently view HIV disease?

The feeling of pro-acting on the stigma of being HIV-positive and engaging in unprotected sex is, in my humble opinion, driven by self-loathing and the need to feel included in an exclusive club to which no others dare to enter. I am of a generation that grew up fearing the consequences of being diagnosed with HIV or AIDS-related complications. The stigma is not sociological; to me it is a reality of health, well-being, and life and the ability to pay for the care this disease requires. Nothing not even the intimacy, pleasure, and thrill of raw, unsheathed cock - should compromise my, your, or anyone else's health unless we are sure transmission is impossible. HIV is a PREVENTABLE disease.

Many thanks to your interesting and intelligent discourse. I look forward to delving more into your blog and to FINALLY meeting you next time you're in Charlotte.

Regards,

Chris Slay

Chris | October 26, 2008 8:58 PM

Hey Chris --

Thanks for your thoughtful response. Clearly this case has touched on a number of sensitive issues here:

1) Responsibility: This is a clasic "neoliberal" / individualistic kind of framework for understanding HIV transmission, and there's a gigantic, gaping hole in the logic: Responsibility is a two-way street when it comes to sex. We have no idea if his partners asked him of his status. We have no idea who said what, when. But broad than this case, I think we tend to always frame responsibility around the HIV-positive person -- but really, let's get real, disclosure is a two-way street. And the burden of initiating the conversation shouldn't be on either parties shoulders. That, to me, is a recipe for disaster.

2) Probation: I mean, I would just say that the terms of his probation were egregious and fucked up in the first place. Telling anyone that the terms of their probation are to not engage in unprotected sex is seriously outrageous, and totally disregards the many harm reduction strategies that gay men have creatively invented (in the face of defiant public health officials) to mitigate risk in the absence of condoms. That may come in the form of strategic positioning (only bottoming as a poz guy with neg partners) or serosorting (only fucking with other poz guys). So his probation terms were ludicrous.

3) HIV is now widely considered a chronic disease for those with access to health care. This isn't really debated anymore.

4) To say that HIV is a preventable disease is theoretcially true, sure. But obviously there are a whole host of complications that make some kinds of people particularly vulnerable to infection -- and this isn't about sexual behavior. It can be about access to housing, health care and other resources, race and other status markers -- there's a whole slew of factors that contribute to make some populations egregiously at risk compared to others. I think we've relied on this American public health model of HIV transmission that focuses exclusively on individuals and their bad behavior rather than structural factors that contribute to the epidemic. This has been the single biggest failure of public health, both in terms of HIV/AIDS and other health matters (if you can find access to it, the article "What Ails Public Health?" in the Chronicle of Higher Education from Nov 2007 details this)

Got papers to write. But there's a start.

Trevor Hoppe | October 26, 2008 10:28 PM

this is nothing more than a witch hunt, if was str8 it would have never made it in teh news, who is to say that his second infection wasn't from a willing partner who knew his hiv status.

sickntired | October 26, 2008 10:32 PM

Hi Chris. In response to number 1 above, of course it is the HIV+ persons responsibility to disclose their status to potential sexual partners. The fact that you don't believe that is very alarming. It also makes me wonder if you are just beating your chest to try and make yourself look like some Debbie Do-gooder. It is actually a very ignorant response to such an issue. Yes, it is a two way street. But just as muddy as that issue is, there is the issue of would he have told the truth or not about his positive status if he had been asked.

In regards to number 2... Those probation terms were very simple. Very, very simple. They should have been very easy to follow unless he is OCD. If his behavior is compulsive then he should be hospitalized and begin treatment to get that complusive behavior under control. I don't think it is out of the way at all to sentence someone who is known for infecting people with HIV to never participate in unprotected sex again. And the quarantine issue sits just fine with me. He clearly continued to engage in this activity. There are consequences to everything you do in life. It is his own fault that he disregarded that fact.

In response to sickntired....The gay/straight issue had nothing to do with this case. If you have read the local news station commment boards you would see that most people who read about the story and didn't know who he has just assumed the guy was straight.

He is a public health risk. Plain and simple. He should be treated as such. If he were out wticking people with needles to infect others then everyone would be outraged. It is no different. He is only sticking them with something besides a needle. If he were a rapist who had gotten out of prison and then went on to rape again he would have probably been put on death row. There is no difference here. He is a public health risk. It's just that simple folks. Anyone who feels differently should seek a mental health evalutation as soon as possible.

BPM | January 17, 2009 12:25 PM


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