By Kenneth Pinkela
“He’s HIV positive so it must be him…”
This is a direct quote from CPT Jordan Stapley, US Army JAG attorney and the prosecutor who brought charges against me on my 45th birthday – June 29, 2012.
Up to that point, I was a very happy and successful 27+ year career US Army officer, HIV+, healthy, long term non-progressor, actively serving my country.
On a day I should have been celebrating my 45th birthday, COL Michael Hargis, the military judge, presiding over my general courts martial said the words “guilty of all charges and specifications…” Life as I knew it was over…
It didn’t matter that I had volunteered for a polygraph, that there was no investigation or that my family was in the house.
It didn’t matter that I had volunteered for phylogenetic testing and actually introduced the government to Dr Mike Metzker of Baylor University…the scientist who successfully applied phylogenetics to the HIV virus and was able to demonstrate one strain of the virus was not like the other; thus proving a person is or is not the source of infection.
It doesn’t even matter that the primary witness has signed a sworn statement recanting and describing lies and coercion on the part of the Army prosecution.
I was charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which defines Aggravated Assault as…
any service member offering or attempting to do bodily harm to another individual, through unlawful violence or force, whether or not the offer or attempt is consummated…
My charge sheet reads “Aggravated Assault for “exposing” a First Lieutenant to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and inflicting grievous bodily harm or death…” and the aggravation is my HIV status…ME…I was a weapon.
When you hear those words “aggravated assault” you, like any average person, you envision some type of violent physical attack …but none of that could be farther from the truth.
My case, like many other HIV Criminalization cases both in the US and in Canada rarely, if ever, have any “element” of a crime.
What’s extraordinary to my case different than the state specific HIV criminal laws, no US President or session of the US Congress has never included HIV in any manner into the Uniform Code of Military Justice. HIV criminalization continues, without authorization, unchecked via case law, ignorance and stigma. All at the expense of the lives of military members who just happen to be living with HIV.
I am now 49 years old, unemployed, on public assistance, a convicted felon, my career pension and benefits are gone, including medical care for both combat related injuries and my HIV, but I’m not dead yet.
The network of HIV Criminalization advocates in the US and Canada is amazing! I’m not going to stop until what happened to me can NEVER happen again!
HIV is NOT a CRIME!
HIV is NOT a Violent ACT!
HIV is a virus…a virus that over 1.3 million in the United States and Canada are living with…STOP criminalizing us!