Having been found guilty of purposely infecting multiple women with HIV, Sundiata Basir was sentenced to 21 years in prison on Nov. 4.
Four of his former sexual partners, including one 15-year-old girl and his then 17-year-old wife, have been diagnosed with AIDS. Aside from those four, Basir has allegedly engaged in unprotected sex with countless women.
Basir, 34, has known his HIV status since 1996, and reportedly still engaged in unprotected sex with multiple partners ever since. He never told any of the women of his status. When any of his partners asked, he lied.
DC Superior Court Judge Robert I. Richard, who served as the prosecuting judge in Basir’s case, called Basir an "outlaw," who "knowingly put uncountable people at risk."
Basir’s is not the first documented case of intentional HIV infection. In 2002, Nikko Briteramos, an African-American college basketball player in South Dakota, was charged with purposely infecting a young woman with HIV.These cases shed light on the risk that African-Americans face regarding HIV/AIDS.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the leading cause of HIV infection for African- American women is unprotected, heterosexual sex. It is among the top four causes of death for African-American women aged 20 to 54 years old.
Gary Bell, executive director of Blacks Educating Blacks About Sexual Health Issues (BEBASHI), believes the lack of open communication in the Black community is to blame.
"You try to start up a conversation about HIV, and people just don’t want to think about it," he told BlackAmericaWeb.com. "It’s depressing and scary and all these things, but it’s keeping us from adopting the kind of behavior we need to have to be safe."
Students who heard about the Basir case were shocked and disturbed.
Ashley Kershaw, a sophomore print journalism major at Hampton University described Basir’s actions as nothing short of "crazy." She asked, "who purposely infects women with HIV?"
However, Kershaw recognizes that the responsibility of protection falls on both partners. "It shows that black people are still not aware of the disease," she said.
Kershaw believes that though the case brings attention to the matter, it will do little to change the practices of African Americans."I think this will open people’s eyes, but soon this story will fade out and they will go back to their normal routine: having unprotected sex or not getting tested."
"It certainly speaks to those who aren’t being absolutely protective of themselves when having sex with other people," said Katherine Jackson, a senior psychology major at Howard University.
"It’s sad to say, but it’s almost one’s own fault for getting AIDS these days." Jackson believes the case sheds light on the importance of condom use and using discretion with choosing sexual partners.
"It’s a shame that it takes a case like this to bring this matter to attention of people, but the number one thing each individual has to do is stop ignoring the issue," Bell told BlackAmericaWeb.com. "Stop thinking it’s an issue that only affects other people, and learn as much as you can about it. The bottom line is to get tested and know your status."