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Italy HIV Prostitute Photo Shown

February 15, 1998

ROME (AP) _ Italian media on Sunday ran a photo of a prostitute who, while allegedly knowing she was infected with the AIDS virus, is believed to have had unprotected sex with as many as 5,000 customers.

Doctors issued a nationwide call for her customers to be tested for HIV, the virus which causes deadly AIDS.

The woman was identified as a 49-year-old prostitute based in Ravenna, 215 miles northeast of Rome.

By Sunday afternoon, more than 1,000 calls had swamped two hotlines set up some 24 hours earlier by Ravenna police, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Most of the callers were men -- one as far south as Naples ANSA said -- but some of the callers were women who said they had had group sex involving the prostitute.

Police Chief Filippo Ciccimarra estimated that thousands of people could have had unprotected sex with the woman, and Italian news reports, without identifying investigative sources, put the estimate at 5,000.

The Rome daily La Repubblica reported that the woman was heavily in demand by men all over Italy precisely because she was willing to have sex with customers without using a condom.

Italian news reports said the woman allegedly knew she had tested positive for HIV for two years without telling clients and that prosecutors were investigating her on a charge of allegedly causing grave personal harm by means of contagion.

The woman was dubbed the ``Courthouse Hooker″ because she walked the sidewalk in search of customers in an area near Ravenna’s justice building.

News reports said the woman’s condition was discovered when police recently raided her appartment after noticing a stream of men going inside. Officers found an address book of her alleged customers and medicine used to fight the AIDS virus.

The president of the Italian League for the Fight Against AIDS on Sunday protested the prosecutor’s decision to release the woman’s name and photograph. Vittorio Agnoletti contended that Italy’s new law on privacy for all citizens and another law that guarantees the anonymity of HIV-positive people were violated.

The head of Arcigay, an Italian gay rights group, complained that the clients who asked for sex without a condom should be censured, too, not just the prostitute.

``It’s wrong to talk about a `plague-spreader’ in relation to AIDS, because it’s everyone’s duty to prevent the infectious diseases, including prostitution’s clients who must use and demand condoms,″ said Franco Grillini.

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