D Gregory Smith

HIV+ Man Arrested for Intentionally Infecting 100+ Women

Filed By D Gregory Smith | February 25, 2010 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: HIV+ predator, HIV/AIDS, HIV/AIDS activism, Indiana, Intentional infection, Revenge, whore, women and HIV

A SWAT team arrested Tony Perkins, 47, of Greenwood, Indiana on Friday, after a tip by a former girlfriend that he was HIV+ and was knowingly infecting women by having unprotected sex. He was charged under Indiana law with "failure of carriers of dangerous communicable diseases to warn persons at risk (a Class D felony) and intimidation."

Mr Perkins allegedly was looking to infect women, because, according to the ex-girlfriend, "His quotes were 'a whore gave it to me, so if a whore wants to sleep with me on the first night, she deserves what she gets.'"

Police have begun an investigation into Perkins' phone and internet records in order to contact potential victims. They are also posting his picture on television, newspapers and the internet in order to get other potential partners to come forward.

I've touched on the subject of HIV+ gay men as predators before, but this brings up a whole new set of questions - most of them not easy to ask.

I've worked with a few HIV+ women, but my primary experience has been with HIV+ men, gay, bi and straight. The few women I've worked with or talked to were mostly infected through IV drug use or prostitution, so I'm obviously not well-acquainted with the whole picture. I am interested, however, in being educated. I want to know more women's general feeling about being at risk for HIV.

One of the things I consistently face in rural communities is the disbelief that HIV can be transmitted through straight sex. "Condoms are for the gay boys," some male college students have told me - in many ways, and more often than I'd like. A group of college age girls I recently talked to about HIV told me "We don't have to worry. It's not really here." When I reply that in my HIV+ support group in that very community, there are several young men who are straight - and sexually active, it catches them by surprise.

I also know that in many rural areas there are quite a few married men who are having sex with other men. In my work, it's something that I no longer am shocked or surprised by. It's become quite common, actually... I worry that many women aren't aware of the facts, statistics, circumstances and possible ramifications of unprotected sex with a stranger.

But back to some questions I have:

  • Are women different than (gay) men when it comes to seeing/taking responsibility for protected sex?
  • Are some (straight?) people really that naive, or are they simply showing a strong form of denial in having regular risky sex?
  • Is our society so revenge-driven (I could easily name ten movies in the last year with this theme) that it makes it an acceptable logical step for this man to seek some twisted sense of revenge?
  • What does this man's statement say, if anything, about our society's view of whores? Who's a whore? Why are they worthless in his/our eyes?
  • What does the arrest of this man say to other HIV+ persons?
  • Is this felony classification outdated, especially as it falls under the homicide statute?

Definitely questions to ponder. As always, your thoughts are encouraged and welcome.

Personally, I think the man's a danger to society (not to mention continued HIV services in Indiana as each infected person costs tens of thousands of dollars a year), is probably mentally ill and definitely needed to be stopped. That part's relatively easy for me to determine.

The harder part is, "What contributed to this mess in the first place?" I'm not sure we'll ever know, but maybe we can prevent it from happening again.


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Well "killing whores" is an ages-old misogynystic justification for violence against women (whether prostitutes or not) so I can't say I'm surprised to learn about this.
* Are women different than (gay) men when it comes to seeing/taking responsibility for protected sex?

Women, being the ones who get pregnant, are more used to being safe so I'd venture to say maybe we are but not that much more. Anyone can be carried by the heat of the moment.

* Are some (straight?) people really that naive, or are they simply showing a strong form of denial in having regular risky sex?

Denial. "it won't happen to me".

* Is our society so revenge-driven (I could easily name ten movies in the last year with this theme) that it makes it an acceptable logical step for this man to seek some twisted sense of revenge?

No. It never is. A deadly disease like HIV is the same as a gun. If you have criminal intent and the means to carry it out and you do, then you're a murderer. Period.


* What does this man's statement say, if anything, about our society's view of whores? Who's a whore? Why are they worthless in his/our eyes?

Prostitutes have pretty much always been worthless in the eyes of those not forced into it. Probably he thinks that having been infected with HIV, that grief gives him the moral clout to go about punishing everyone for it.


* What does the arrest of this man say to other HIV+ persons?

Nothing if they have no criminal intent, but expect that anti-gay people will use it against us. Another one of those misunderstood horror stories to whisper in church and to offer as proof that HIV+ people are inherently immoral and that's why they got infected.

* Is this felony classification outdated, especially as it falls under the homicide statute?

I don't think it applies to him, he has a professed criminal intent. He set out to kill other people or make their life miserable.

Jack the Ripper with a biological weapon, anyone?

I wondered if anyone would make that comparison....

I actually get the question a lot about people who are HIV+ being arrested when they are knowingly infecting people. I also think there’s not enough worry about STDs in our society b/c there is such little education about them. HIV is the only STD taught in the schools. I just looked at the new health standards for Missoula County schools and HIV/AIDS starts being taught in fourth grade, but the reproductive system isn’t taught until 6th grade! I think in the gay community the very real presence of HIV and education of condom use/safer sex practices normalizes the discussion/risk of HIV and condoms. Not so in the hetero-sex-is-forbidden world.

Are women different than (gay) men when it comes to seeing/taking responsibility for protected sex?

There are probably some cultural differences between gay men and straight women on this issue. Because women in our culture are taught to submit to men, especially in a sexual context, it can be very hard for straight women to speak up and demand that their partner wear a condom. Some straight men might refuse to wear one, and some women might not push it because they don't want to be seen as a bitch. Even women who do demand condom usage usually give in eventually - the assumption is that once she's on birth control and the couple has been together for a while, it's safe to stop using one (because she can't get pregnant, and women typically trust their boyfriends not to lie about having a dangerous disease). Since most straight women also think they're not likely to be vulnerable to this disease, I can definitely see how straight women might not be as rigorous in using condoms as they ought to be.

Queer women also receive some of that cultural pressuring, although I would imagine most of us have rejected a lot of the "must submit to men" messaging since we don't need men the same way heterosexual women do. In my experience, queer women are better about safe sex...the only people I personally know who say they regularly use barrier protection during oral are lesbian or bisexual women. (To be fair, I don't tend to talk about condoms with my gay male friends as often).

Are some (straight?) people really that naive, or are they simply showing a strong form of denial in having regular risky sex?

You know, I haven't met any who are that ignorant, but considering the state of sex ed in our country, I'm not at all surprised that there are people who have ridiculous misconceptions about STIs. There are still teenagers who get pregnant because they "thought you couldn't get pregnant the first time."

Is our society so revenge-driven (I could easily name ten movies in the last year with this theme) that it makes it an acceptable logical step for this man to seek some twisted sense of revenge?

I don't think the problem is that we're too revenge-driven. I think the problem is that we're still so scared of AIDS that we marginalize people who are HIV+. This guy probably found out he was HIV+ and considered his life ruined - he probably assumed that if he told the truth no one would sleep with him ever again. This guy, who had previously been at the top of privilege food chain, was about to lose a big chunk of that privilege as he began to suffer from the stigma of being HIV+ in our society. Facing such a massive loss of social standing probably produced the rage that motivated his revenge campaign. Women were simply a convenient target...it's hardly unusual for us to be categorically blamed and punished for men's unhappiness.

What does this man's statement say, if anything, about our society's view of whores? Who's a whore? Why are they worthless in his/our eyes?

All women who have sex risk being labeled whores. No, scratch that - all women who appear even remotely sexual risk being labeled whores. Calling these women "whores" was just this man's way of rationalizing his systematic violence against women and of policing the female sexuality he blamed for his exposure to HIV. Again, this misogynistic hatred of women's sexual freedom is nothing new, but rather a consistent cultural trope - women's sexuality is seen by the sexist and heterosexist culture as being reducible to baby-making, and our pleasure is actively erased. There are many straight women who have never had an orgasm, and who would consider it whorish for themselves to experience that pleasure...because we're constantly told that women don't like sex, they just do it for husbands and babies. So any woman who falls outside that model can be labeled a whore, justifying violence against them. Violence against sex workers is a common cultural trope too - see Grand Theft Auto and media portrayals of serial killers who prey on sex workers. They're seen as worthless because women are valued for their purity, which is considered to have declined each time a woman has sex. A "whore" is someone who's used up all her purity and doesn't deserve protection anymore because she's not a "good" (passive, submissive, lacking desire) woman.

What does the arrest of this man say to other HIV+ persons?

I imagine other HIV+ people might be afraid of being arrested despite (or perhaps because of) their honesty to their partners. At the same time, it does send a message to HIV+ assholes that they can get in trouble for intentionally witholding their status from their partners. I think he really did commit a crime for which he deserves to be punished, but we should be careful not to paint every HIV+ person with that brush.

Is this felony classification outdated, especially as it falls under the homicide statute?

Yeah, the homicide part is probably outdated. Giving someone HIV is a pretty big deal though, I'm not sure a felony is entirely out of line.

Excellent (and articulate) points, all of you-especially in regard to women's attitudes and approaches. Thanks.
I think that sex is much more easily discussed (in general) in the LGBT world...

Prosecutors will be looking to stack up as many counts as they can, so they will definitely apply the fail to warn against a "dangerous communicable disease" along with the intent to do harm.

Notice that an offender is liable for prosecution even if no disease isn't actually transmitted -- failure to warn all by itself is a crime.

And that Indiana statute IS pretty updated...because there are quite a few STDs besides HIV that are serious, even possibly fatal, if not treated. Some, like herpes, can also be transmitted to a woman's fetus if she is pregnant. Which is why a growing number of states are adding other STDs to their felony or misdemeanor statutes on disease transmission.

The only part of the Indiana statute that's outdated, IMHO, is the part specifically about HIV, since (as I said before) there are quite a few other serious diseases that can be transmitted by blood donations, lab samples, etc. Singling out HIV is a bad idea because it creates the stigma.

Indeed- thanks for a few catches:

The "failure to warn" piece includes the word "knowingly"-so apparently persons unaware of their HIV+ status are not culpable. Whether willful ignorance comes into play- for example suspecting because of risky behavior or having one or multiple HIV+partners that you are HIV+ has not, to my knowledge been tested yet.

The excellent point about untreated STD's is something we often miss. Most of us know what untreated HIV can do, but how many people have seen Stage 3 Syphilis? It ain't pretty.

100+ women? That's a lot! It's not like he could have been in a long-term relationship with each of them.

Alex, sorry, but your judgmentalism is showing. If we, meaning urban gay men, have any gay middle-aged friends who regularly go to the bathhouses, then I would be likely to assume that they have each had sex with at least 100 men or more.

It may be less of a norm, but straights can be just as active. Remember the late basketball player Wilt Chamberlain, who estimated that during his adult lifetime he had had sex with more than 15,000 women. Consider that if a person lives to be 65 (about the age at which Chamberlain died), then 65 years equals 23,741 days --- and when you subtract his years of prepubescence, that averages better than one woman per day for the rest of his life.

But no, obviously we are not talking about "long-term relationships" ...

I was responding to the comment above that said that straight people tend not to use condoms when in serious relationships. Because this dude obviously wasn't.

Of course I have no problem with someone who has 100+ sex partners. If everyone's responsible, more power to them.

Gregory, the one hard question you didn't quite get all the way to asking is: "If a straight man can be held morally and legally responsible for having sex without disclosing beforehand, is there any difference, morally and/or legally, between this and an HIV+ gay man having sex with other men without disclosing?"

There is one difference: We are assuming that "sex" with this man and his female partners involved unprotected penis-vagina intercourse. This assumption might not always be true. However, in the case of gay male sex, this "assumption" would never be true --- and it would not even necessarily be always true even if we are counting anal intercourse as the most likely way to transmit. On the other hand, it is worth pointing out that any mode of sexual activity that occurs between two men can also occur between a man and a woman (unless it is some type of activity that requires two penises).

The different ways to have sex do each have different likelihoods of HIV transmission --- and I do believe that the law should properly reflect this, although I doubt that it does. Moreover, the exact details of sexual activity in cases such as this do not make it into the public news coverage ... mostly because a lot of parents do not want the TV news their children watch to be rated XXX.

On a separate point, some of the comments mention the element of "criminal intent" --- I am not a lawyer, but it is my understanding that Indiana law does not require that "criminal intent" be present in order for a conviction under this statute to be valid.

I think the question I inferred was "If this were a gay man infecting other gay men, would it be such a big deal in the media?"
I thought others would pick it up more strenuously....

bigolpoofter | February 25, 2010 7:07 PM
The different ways to have sex do each have different likelihoods of HIV transmission --- and I do believe that the law should properly reflect this, although I doubt that it does.

Thanks, A.J., for providing a roundabout justification for buggery laws! By your logic, attempted murder penalties should be graduated according to the lethality of the weapon involved.

As a 27.5-year survivor with HIV (thanks to good genes and denial), I've got a lot to say about the unique prosecution of sex-while-positive, and none of it supports these laws and their enforcement. While I do not believe that intentionally infecting others, particularly without disclosure to create informed consent, should pass without repercussions, the rush to prosecute HIVers acts counter to public health strategies by creating simultaneously a stigma against knowledge through regular testing and a foolish belief that only one party in a sexual exchange bears responsibility for stopping the spread of disease. Add to that the sensational treatment given to these cases by the media, and the laws help perpetuate a faulty image of HIVers as irresponsible, as well as the hate and bigotry that is inflamed.

Thanks, A.J., for providing a roundabout justification for buggery laws! By your logic, attempted murder penalties should be graduated according to the lethality of the weapon involved.

BOP, apparently you think that all those HIV+ men (and women) who bite someone should be indeed charged automatically with "attempted murder" --- as they so often are, even though transmission via saliva is virtually unheard of. But you have a right to your opinion ... Interesting.

And by the way, "buggery" can happen without involving HIV at all (if both are neg) so I find your equating of non-disclosure to "buggery" itself to be rather careless.