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Woman accused of deliberately spreading HIV
By Christy Gutowski
Daily Herald Legal Affairs Writer
Suburban Chicago's Information Source

Posted on October 08, 2002

A Barrington woman is accused of deliberately exposing an Elmhurst man to the virus that causes AIDS through a one-time sexual encounter.

Pamela A. Sohn, 47, appeared in court Monday for arraignment. The hearing was delayed until Oct. 21 to give her time to hire a defense attorney.

Police arrested Sohn Sept. 13, and charged her with criminal transmission of HIV - a rarely used law - and misdemeanor theft. She is accused of having sex with a 76-year-old man, but not telling him she carried the disease.

The two had met the previous evening at Fitz's Pub in Elmhurst. They went back to the man's apartment, where police said they had unprotected sex. Shortly later, the man called police and accused the woman of stealing money out of his wallet.

He also told police Sohn had admitted to being HIV positive after they had sex. Though she initially denied it, police said Sohn was carrying an AIDS medication. Prosecutors plan to subpoena her medical records.

More than 30 states, including Illinois, have HIV statutes in place. The law, enacted in Illinois in 1989, has been used here only a few times, experts say. About 100 such cases have been prosecuted nationwide. In some instances, prosecutors have chosen alternative charges such as aggravated battery or attempted murder.

Sohn had been living in a halfway house in Addison before her arrest. Before that, she lived with her husband and children in Barrington.

She has been held in the DuPage County jail on a $500,000 bond since her arrest last month. Besides the HIV charge, Sohn also faces theft charges on suspicion she stole money from the man.

After the arrest, authorities took the man to the hospital for testing. He won't know for at least six months if he is infected from the one-time encounter, police said.

In another high-profile case, the arrest of a freshman at Si Tanka-Huron University in South Dakota sparked a public health investigation and nationwide media coverage. Nikko Briteramos, 19, of Chicago pleaded guilty last summer to having sex with his girlfriend without revealing he had the AIDS virus. He received probation.

Many AIDS advocacy groups argue such criminal laws are counterproductive.

"The criminalization of people who are sick is not the best way to go about prevention," said Karen Reitan, director of state affairs for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

"It should be about doing outreach, intervention and education and getting people to take responsibility for their actions. Putting people in jail may not be the best way to do that."

HIV: Official at AIDS Foundation questions 'criminalization' of sick

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