Smith has right to privacy from teammates

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Saskatchewan Roughriders middle linebacker Trevis Smith has been arrested for aggravated assault after a woman alleged that Smith had unprotected sex with her and did not disclose his HIV-positive status. The arrest comes after the RCMP revealed to the public Smith’s HIV status in order to warn women Smith might have encountered and to encourage them to come forward and get tested. According to the Globe and Mail, Smith “is charged with aggravated sexual assault under section 273, sub. 2 of the Criminal Code. That subsection includes the charge of self-induced intoxication, recklessness or willful blindness or not taking reasonable steps to ensure the complainant was consenting.”

The team officials were made aware of Smith’s condition a year ago when Regina police informed them that charges might be laid. It was the RCMP that made the recent arrest. According to Roughriders Chairman Graham Barker, after evaluating the situation, the team chose not to disclose this information to the players. If the allegations against Smith are true, his actions were indeed reckless and he should have told the woman he was involved with that he is HIV-positive. However, in his relationship with his teammates, Smith has the right to privacy and it should be his decision whether or not to tell them.

The reactions of some players to Smith’s HIV-positive status also show the continued stigma that accompanies HIV and AIDS. Despite the very remote possibility of the players contracting HIV from playing with Smith (estimated at about one in 85 million), their fear suggests a lack of knowledge as to the true nature of the virus and its ability to infect. Reactions to HIV and AIDS demonstrate a certain degree of ignorance in both the players and the public. An initiative needs to be undertaken to inform not only athletes but also the public about HIV and AIDS.

Trevis Smith should have informed his partners of the fact that he is HIV-positive before engaging in unprotected sex. However, he was under no obligation to inform his teammates about his condition. This controversy indicates the need for some kind of education to be provided to athletes and spectators so they can better understand the true implications of HIV and AIDS rather than perpetuating common misconceptions.

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