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US: HIV positive priest charged with felony in Ohio

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An HIV positive priest in Cleveland is being charged with a felony under an outdated HIV criminalisation law for allegedly soliciting a park ranger.

Last October Reverend James McGonegal, former pastor of St. Ignatius of Antioch Church and who is HIV positive, allegedly solicited an undercover park ranger. McGonegal did not disclose his sero-positive status to his prospective partner at the time.

Henry Hillow, McGongeal’s defense attorney moved that the charges be dropped, as the law was outdated. Hillow is motioning for a dismissal because advancement in treatment, since the law’s 1996 inception, make the possibility of transmission legally negligible.

Hillow said: “My client is being charged with a felony for the presence of HIV.”

Monday, Cuyahoga County Judge Stuart Friedman issued an opinion that holds McGonegal’s felony charges, despite his personal doubts regarding the law. Citing the Centers for Disease Control Friedman noted that transmission of the virus through oral sex resulted in 4 out of 10,000 cases.

There are currently 34 states (including Ohio) with felony laws against HIV positive people soliciting sex.

Hillow is committed to pursuing a dismissal of the charges as the 9 September trial commences.

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