hiv protest

PROTESTING THE DAMAGE DONE: The inaccurate claim by the head of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association that one of his members was at risk of contracting the virus that causes AIDS after a criminal suspect who is HIV positive spit in his mouth spurred a rally outside WCBS-TV, which had publicized the false information with a tweet, in which protesters blasted both the union official, Paul Nunziato, and the television station. The virus is spread by some bodily fluids but not saliva.

A bid by the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association President Paul Nunziato to weigh in on the perils of New York State’s bail reforms sparked a social-media controversy over a very different issue.

He distributed a statement blasting a Queens judge’s decision to  release without bail or supervision an HIV-positive male suspect who had been arrested Jan. 6 by Port Authority police for petty larceny, assaulting a police officer and criminal mischief for damage done to the agency’s holding cell at LaGuardia Airport.

A False Alarm

The PBA president’s statement suggested that because the suspect spat into the mouth of the arresting officer that the cop had been exposed to the AIDS virus and would have to undergo testing.

“Absolutely ridiculous! The number one responsibility of government is to protect the people; bail reform relinquishes government of that responsibility,” Mr. Nunziato said in his statement. “My police officer was assaulted, he and his family will live a life of worry about the possibility of further harm.”

There was one major problem however: according to the National Institutes of Health, HIV is transmittable via bodily fluids like blood, semen and breast milk but not saliva.

CBS News tweeted its version of the story headlined “Released After HIV Attack” which prompted social-media outrage.

The tweet prompted many responses, including from Jason Rosenberg, of ACT UP, who took the news outlet to task. “It’s 2020, and we know full well that HIV CANNOT be transmitted via saliva. You should be ashamed for even remotely spreading these falsehoods,” he tweeted. 

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