Air Force's Swinging Sergeant Discharged For Lying About HIV

Illustration for article titled Air Force's Swinging Sergeant Discharged For Lying About HIV

An Air Force sergeant will be dishonorably discharged for failing to disclose his HIV status at swinging parties, meaning he'll lose the medical benefits he needs to manage the disease.

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There's little doubt that Tech. Sgt. David Gutierrez behaved immorally — according to the AP, he "repeatedly denied" being HIV-positive so that he could have unprotected sex with multiple partners at parties. None of them appear to have become infected, but Gutierrez deceived them and put them all at risk, and a military court martial decided he deserved punishment: he was convicted on seven counts of aggravated assault and violating a commander's order (apparently, his superior was aware of his activities and had ordered him to disclose his status and use protection), as well as counts of indecent acts and adultery. He will serve eight years in military prison, and receive a dishonorable discharge.

It's the discharge that's the real issue here. Gutierrez actually said he'd be willing to accept more prison time to avoid it, because it means he'll lose his military medical benefits. And since HIV treatment can cost as much as $30,000 a year, that's a big deal. Of course, as one prosecutor pointed out, "The accused was not thinking about how his victims would pay for their medications." Still, it seems inhumane to deprive a man of the means to pay for his much-needed medical care.

Of course, the real issue here isn't Gutierrez's military benefits. After all, the Air Force seems to have ample reason to discharge him. A prosecutor also said that Gutierrez's sex partners "thought they could trust Gutierrez because he was in the military" — and while someone's job shouldn't be reason enough to have unprotected sex with someone, it's pretty clear that Gutierrez sullied not just his own but the Air Force's reputation by lying to people, and they deserve the right to discharge him. But this removal shouldn't mean he can no longer get medical care — because access to decent medicine is a human right that should be tied neither to employment nor to incarceration status. Gutierrez clearly did some terrible things and deserves to be punished — but denial of medical care is a punishment nobody deserves.

Airman Gets 8 Years In Prison In HIV Exposure Case [AP, via Yahoo News]

DISCUSSION

I'm amazed by how many people responding to this story seem to be reacting with "good, he doesn't deserve health care because he put those people at risk".

He deserves to go to jail for that. For a long, looooong time. But every single human being - including perpetrators of heinous crimes - deserves access to health care. How can you expect to defend universal access to health care for single mothers and working poor families when you aren't willing to defend it for criminals? What makes one individual undeserving of health care? Defending his right to treatment is not going to take that same right away from someone else, it will only reinforce the universal right of every person to medical care.

Had he infected someone, they would have had a right to health care in order to manage the disease. And so does he, reprehensible as he is for putting others at risk. We don't get to pick and choose which people deserve to keep their human rights just because we think they're disgusting.