Florida man accused of knowingly transmitting HIV arrested, facing court
PENSACOLA, Fla. (WEAR) — A Pensacola man accused of not sharing his HIV-positive status is heading to court.
Rasheem Bodiford, who was previously being held at the Florida State Hospital, is behind bars in Escambia County.
On November 14, he will face a judge for a competency hearing.
Bodiford was arrested in November 2017, after being accused by three different women of failing to disclose his HIV-positive diagnosis before having sex with them.
Reports state all three women allegedly contracted the virus from Bodiford.
"It is a crime in the state of Florida to engage in sexual activity without first advising your partner and that person consenting to that sexual contact," said Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille.
Marcille says prosecuting cases like this one comes with challenges.
"We actually have to prove that they are aware that they have the illness," said Marcille. "and secondly, that by engaging in sex with another individual, they could infect the other, their partner."
There is still no cure for HIV, but Dr. John Lanza with the Florida Department of Health says treatment has come a long way.
"HIV used to be a death sentence," said Lanza. "You're going to be on medications your whole life, but you're going to live to 70, 80, 90, whatever…"
According to Florida statute, most sexually transmitted disease charges are misdemeanors, but an HIV charge is a felony. Some, like Kamaria Laffrey, argue the law needs to change.
"No one goes around accusing someone of giving them a cold, and filing charges against them," Laffrey said.
Laffrey is with the Sero Project, a group working to modernize the law in regard to prosecuting those with the virus - including non-disclosure cases like Bodiford's.
"This is a nationwide, actually a global issue of people being criminalized for a health diagnosis," said Laffrey.
Laffrey says it is everyone's responsibility to know their status, and believes there should not be a law mandating people disclose their HIV diagnosis.
"It's unjust, it's outdated and it further perpetuates the stigma," said Laffrey.
Cases like Bodiford's do not come around often says Marcille. He has seen less than ten in the past 20 years.
"They do come to our office on an occasional basis, but it is a very unusual type charge for us to receive," said Marcille.
If found guilty, Bodiford faces up to 15 years in prison.