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What is sexual intercourse? That’s for the Florida Supreme Court to decide

What does “sexual intercourse” mean in Florida?

The state’s Supreme Court justices are pondering the question in a case involving a 1986 law requiring HIV-positive people to reveal their infection before having “sexual intercourse.”

A defense lawyer told the court last week that Florida’s laws have always used the term to describe heterosexual sex and not any other sexual activity by either gender.

The case involves a man charged with a felony after failing to tell his male sex partner that he carries the human immunodeficiency virus. His public defender, Brian Ellison, is simply trying to get the charge dropped, but told The Associated Press outside court that the same defense could apply to HIV-positive heterosexuals who engage in anything other than traditional sex.

“In the history of Florida law the specific term, sexual intercourse has always been interpreted to mean reproductive sexual conduct,” Ellison said. “It’s not the way that I’d want to define it, maybe — maybe not the way you’d want to define it —  but that’s the way it’s always been in Florida law.”

Ellison didn’t try to persuade the justices that his client, Gary Debaun, did nothing wrong; instead, he argued that Debaun didn’t violate the law as written.

The record shows that Debaun’s partner asked him to take an HIV test, and that Debaun, who knew that he was living with HIV, gave the man fake test results showing he was free of the virus. A lower court threw out the charge, but it was reinstated on appeal.

A number of states legally require people with HIV to disclose the infection to sex partners, but Ellison told the justices that other states’ laws use term “sexual activity” or specifically spell out sexual acts, rather than use Florida’s narrow language.

“But would you agree that when that statute was enacted, it was the intent to make sure that anybody that was going to have any kind of sexual activity that could transmit AIDS advise their partner?” asked Justice Barbara Pariente.

That’s exactly the point Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Geldens made in arguing that the charge should stand. He noted that the Legislature passed other laws at the time aimed at curbing the spread of HIV, including education programs on how to prevent its spread through sexual activity.

“It’s clear that the statute was intended to address the harms that are at issue in this case,” Geldens said. “That’s exactly what the Legislature intended to prevent, and they used the language of sexual intercourse because they wanted to do that.”

But if Florida lawmakers wanted to spell out exactly what it means by sexual intercourse, it’s had nearly a century to do so, said Ellison. The term has been used in state laws since 1919, when Florida first required disclosures to prevent the spread of syphilis, gonorrhea and other venereal diseases, he said.

“It’s always been defined as between a man and a woman,” he told the justices. “In all of that time, the Legislature has never expressed any intent to give it a more expansive meaning than it has always had, both in this court and elsewhere in this entire criminal code.”

Pariente agreed that lawmakers have had ample opportunity to clarify the law.

“This could be solved easily by the Legislature,” she said.

HIV-positive porn star stands by story

A clinic frequented by porn stars stood by findings that an adult film actor contracted HIV through personal sexual activity, contradicting his claims that he was infected through work.

Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation spokeswoman Jennifer Miller said the San Fernando Valley clinic stands by its testing, which resulted in the quarantine of an unknown number of actors and found no other cases of the disease.

“It’s going to come down to ‘he said, she said,’” said Miller.

At a news conference, Derrick Burts came forward for the first time since news of his illness rattled the multibillion dollar adult film industry and shut down a handful of productions for several weeks earlier this year.

Burts, previously known as Patient Zeta, said he was identifying himself after reading last month that Miller said his illness was contracted outside the porn industry “through private, personal activity.” Productions resumed after Miller’s announcement.

Burts said that he was faithful to his HIV-negative girlfriend except for his work, and that he believes he was infected during a shoot in Florida. He said he used condoms for intercourse, but they aren’t foolproof and he may have contracted the disease through other on-camera sexual contact.

The boyishly handsome 24-year-old, who performed in straight films as Cameron Reid and gay films as Derek Chambers, broke down in tears while recalling the frustration he felt after his diagnosis.

The clinic failed to return calls, e-mails and text messages for weeks, Burts said, adding: “I felt neglected. AIM wasn’t there to protect me.”

Burts said instead of providing the follow-up he needed, Miller, who is also the clinic’s HIV/STD counselor, advised him to avoid media, change his phone number and leave town.

In a statement, lawyers for AIM said Patient Zeta was offered counseling, test results and information on how to get treatment.

“Any statements made by Patient Zeta which portray AIM as not providing appropriate and proper services are not truthful and are self-serving,” the clinic’s statement said.

When he first began working in the industry in June, Burts said agents “loved my look and said I had money written all over me.”

He said he began to have doubts about the business after contracting chlamydia, gonorrhea and herpes in his first month of work, but was convinced to keep working.

“I wasn’t stupid or oblivious, I knew what was out there. But it’s not something you think about when they fill your head” with lucrative offers and promises that the work is safe, he said.

Burts said after his initial diagnosis Oct. 9, the clinic conducted a follow-up test and began testing performers he’d worked with since he lasted tested negative for HIV on Sept. 3.

On Oct. 23, the positive diagnosis was confirmed, and he said the clinic had traced his infection to an HIV-positive performer with whom he had worked.

After weeks of no response from the clinic, on Nov. 24 Burts said he visited an AIDS Healthcare Foundation center in Los Angeles but didn’t identify himself as Patient Zeta.

Burts contacted the head of the organization last week and identified himself as Patient Zeta, as first reported by The Los Angeles Times. He said he wanted to speak out in favor of enforcing mandatory condom use in porn productions.

“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” said Burts. “We need to come up with a system that works.”