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AIDS activists protest sentencing of HIV-positive man

AIDS activists protest sentencing of HIV-positive man

AIDS activists in Philadelphia held a rally and a mock funeral Thursday at the home of a retired judge who had sentenced an HIV-positive man to 25 years in prison for biting a prison guard and potentially exposing him to HIV, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Gregory Smith was sentenced in 1990 by retired superior court judge John Mariano and died in November 2003 while serving his sentence. Smith, who had been serving a previous five-year sentence for robbery, reportedly bit the prison guard three times on the hand, spat on him, and said, "Now die, you pig. Die from what I have." Despite no medical evidence to show that HIV can be transmitted through saliva, Mariano sentenced the man to an additional 25 years in prison. The sentencing was upheld on appeal. Members of the Philadelphia chapter of ACT UP, which staged the rally, said the jail term was a result of "AIDS hysteria." The protesters also called for better care for HIV-positive inmates. Smith died of AIDS-related complications while incarcerated.

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