28 Jun – CANYON COUNTY, ID – Two weeks before the trial of Roland Rivera, 52, on charges he did not disclose his HIV-positive status to several women he had unprotected sex with, the case took an abrupt turn when prosecutors agreed to a lenient plea bargain agreement on the HIV-related charges. If convicted, Rivera, an employee of Amalgamated Sugar Factory and a divorced father of two children, faced up to 15 years in prison.
Currently, 32 states, the military and 2 U.S. territories have laws that criminalize exposing another person to HIV even if the virus isn’t actually transmitted. In all, according to the Center for HIV Law and Policy, 350 HIV-positive people have been arrested or prosecuted for consensual sex, biting and spitting, with their alleged HIV infection viewed as a lethal weapon.
Scientists with OMSJ, a non-profit organization comprised of legal and scientific experts who challenge the accuracy of conventional HIV tests, joined with Rivera’s defense team in deposing Blue Sky, M.D., the Boise physician who diagnosed Rivera with HIV. Rivera began seeing Dr. Sky in 2000 because of symptoms related to pneumonia.
In a 145-page deposition, Dr. Sky acknowledged that there are many medical conditions, such as pregnancy, cold, flu and GI virus, that can cause false positive HIV results with the standard ELISA test. Of the three FDA-approved HIV tests currently used to diagnose HIV, none are able to actually detect the presence or absence of the virus. Only Electron Microscopy (EM), a powerful magnification technology, is able to detect HIV and other viruses. The Western Blot and ELISA tests look for the presence of certain antibodies in the blood, and the PCR test measures what’s called “viral load.”
In another blow to the prosecution, OMSJ expert Gregory Hendricks, Ph.D., an EM specialist at the University of Massachusetts, examined a sample of Rivera’s blood and found no evidence of HIV.
After prosecutors amended the HIV charges, Rivera, a registered sex offender, settled the case instead of going to trial and has 6 months left on a 30-month sentence for his parole violation of the 2009 conviction for felony indecent exposure.
“The change in the prosecutors position,” said Rivera defense attorney Richard Harris, “was due to OMSJ’s involvement in the case, as without its assistance, I would have never been informed about the science involved in the HIV field.” (see letter) Of the 54 civilian and military cases OMSJ has assisted in, 52 have resulted in favorable plea bargains or the complete dismissal of HIV-related charges.