JONESBORO, Ga. — A metro Atlanta man was convicted Tuesday of reckless conduct after authorities said he failed to tell a sexual partner he had been previously diagnosed as HIV-positive.
Craig Davis, 42, of Stone Mountain, was convicted in Clayton County Court. Two metro Atlanta women have accused Davis of failing to disclose his HIV status before sleeping with them. Davis told the court that he didn't have sex with the woman in the Clayton County case, but did sleep with a woman who brought charges against him in Fulton County.
During testimony last week, the woman involved in the Fulton County case told the court she tested positive for the virus in 2012 after she had sex with Davis, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The man's attorney has said Davis may have been misdiagnosed and argued that tests for the virus can be unreliable, and don't provide definitive proof of his status.
"When they tell you he tested positive for HIV, what that means is there's an assumption he's HIV-positive. There's no test that can measure that on the face of this Earth," WXIA-TV quoted his defense attorney John Turner as saying.
Dr. Nancy Banks, a physician who testified on behalf of the defense, said many HIV tests are based on the presence of antibodies, which the body creates to try fighting an HIV infection.
"They don't know where those antibodies come from," Banks told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution late last week. "They've never been able to isolate the virus from the protein."
Banks is listed as an associate doctor on the website of the Office of Medical and Scientific Justice. Among other things, the California-based private investigation firm provides experts for attorneys representing people accused of exposing others to HIV.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials told The Associated Press in a statement Tuesday that several lab tests can detect both antibodies and antigens — part of the virus itself — to find recent infections earlier than tests that only detect antibodies. RNA tests can detect HIV about 10 days after an infection and before antibodies develop, the officials said.
These types of tests are more costly than antibody tests, however, and aren't typically used as a general screening test, CDC officials added. They said doctors may order these types of tests as a follow-up after a positive antibody test.
CDC officials also said false positives are rare, but tests may give a false negative reading if a person is tested soon after being exposed to the virus.
In court, Davis' primary care physician Dr. Courtney Shelton said she diagnosed him with HIV in 2005 and that he used prescription medications to manage the symptoms.
The man's defense attorneys said that his crack cocaine habit at the time of the evaluation may have resulted in a false positive test since the pneumonia and weight loss he was experiencing at the time could have been wrongly associated with exposure to the virus.
However, Clayton County jail officials also told the court that in 2009, Davis told them he was HIV-positive and had medications with him when he was booked.
"We are pleased with the verdict," Kathryn Powers, deputy chief assistant district attorney, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, adding that the jury was "able to weigh the validity of testimony of people who don't believe AIDS or HIV exist."
Davis' attorney, John Turner, told the newspaper that he and his client had a reason to bring the validity of the tests into question.
"It's hard to override 30-plus years of HIV prejudice and hysteria," Turner said. "We handed them reasonable doubt on a platter but they chose to disregard it."