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Prostitute Who Thinks She Has AIDS Says She Must Sell Sex To Buy Drugs

February 21, 1987

BOSTON (AP) _ A prostitute who thinks she has AIDS said Saturday that she would have to resume her work when she is released from a hospital unless she is admitted to a treatment program to combat her eight-year heroin addiction.

Although Patricia Murray has not received confirmation she has the deadly disease, her failure to appear in court last week following a prostitution arrest created a furor and prompted Boston officials to adopt a new policy on detaining prostitutes and drug users with AIDS.

″I would not be out there if I was put on a methadone program,″ Murray said in an interview with The Associated Press from her bed in Boston City Hospital.

″Do you think I like going out on the street? Well I don’t. ... (But) I’m not going to be in physical pain for nobody on the face of this earth.″

Murray, 29, an eighth-grade dropout, said she has been working since the late 1970s as a prostitute in the Combat Zone, Boston’s red light district, to support what she called a $250-a-day heroin habit.

Murray’s arrest Feb. 15 was her fourth on disorderly conduct charges, she said. But the latest one set off accusations over her release on $120 bail after telling police she thought she had acquired immune deficiency syndrome but had no plans to leave the streets.

Police officials said holding Murray, whom they know as Patricia Murphy, would have been a violation of her rights. However, Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Bailus Walker said he could have ordered emergency treatment for AIDS because the woman was a threat to the public if he had been alerted in time.

City officials announced the new AIDS policy Friday, shortly after Murray checked into the hospital for treatment of painful leg ulcers and cellulitis, a skin infection that has left her hands red and swollen. Both are believed to stem from her drug habit rather than AIDS.

Under the policy, police can indefinitely detain prostitutes and intravenous drug users with AIDS who would spread the disease to others. However, detainees can be released if they say they will stop illegal drug use or prostitution.

Murray said she has required customers to use condoms for the past few years because of fear of AIDS and venereal diseases.

She said she had an AIDS test about three weeks ago in Massachusetts General Hospital but did not wait for the results ″because I was drug sick and there was no programs to put me in.″

She said she was fairly sure she had AIDS because she shared drug needles with users who later contracted the disease and has had severe weight-loss problems and other AIDS symptoms during the past two years. Doctors at the hospital refused to discuss her case, citing patient confidentiality.

Authorities cannot force hospitals to release results of an AIDS test but can force suspects to undergo the tests, even if they cannot learn the tests’ results.

Murray said she tried unsuccessfully three times to enter a long-term methadone program. ″They told me I was a habitual drug user, that I was beyond rehabilitation,″ she said.

On the night of her latest arrest, ″I was going to try to get money so when I woke up in the morning I would have drugs to take away the pain and sick.″

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