LISBON, Ohio (WKBN) – A woman accused of failing to disclose her HIV-positive status while having unprotected sex appeared in Columbiana County Municipal Court on Thursday.
Lisa Mutter, of Salem, has been charged with felonious assault. She waived her right to a preliminary hearing, and her case is now headed to a Columbiana County grand jury.
Investigators say Mutter was diagnosed with HIV in 2004 but said she was not taking her prescribed medication. She told the medical staff that she had been having unprotected sex with men she met online, according to a police report.
Mutter is currently being held on $25,000 bond at Columbiana County Jail.
Ohio has a disclosure law, meaning that people with HIV are required by law to disclose their status to potential sex partners. Ursuline Sisters HIV Ministry finds that many new patients don’t know that.
“One of the things that we try to do, particularly at our clinic, is make sure all of our patients are aware of that and that we encourage them to disclose HIV to their partners,” said Brigid Kennedy, co-director of the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown HIV/AIDS Ministry.
She said medicine has changed the chances that someone with HIV can spread the virus.
“If you take care of yourself, if you take your medications like you’re supposed to, your HIV viral load, you can reduce that to zero and essentially not transmit,” she said.
In Mutter’s case, police say she wasn’t taking her medication.
Kennedy says, however, that the law hasn’t kept up with medical progress.
“HIV is really no different than a lot of other diseases now,” she said. “For instance, if you have Hepatitis C, you’re not required to disclose, but you can transmit it just the same as HIV.”
The Ursuline Ministry advises that those with HIV document their disclosure to avoid legal issues.
“There’s so many ways to do that. There’s having them sign something or use your cell phone to get a little video of you doing it, that only you have something. Some way of documenting that you have, in fact, told them,” she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) to prevent those with “high exposure to HIV” from getting the disease. Daily PrEP use can lower the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90 percent, according to the CDC. The key is using the medication consistently.
The Ohio Department of Health also offers several resources for those with HIV, including case management and drug assistance.
For more information on the Ursuline Sisters HIV/AIDS Ministry in Canfield, call (330) 793-0434.