An Arlington inmate who filed a lawsuit last month to force jail officials to test him for AIDS after he was bitten by an infected prisoner in his cell has tested positive for AIDS antibodies, the bitten inmate said yesterday.
Jerome Baker, who is serving two sentences for armed robbery, said yesterday that health officials at the jail, who agreed to test him after he filed the suit, informed him of the results Wednesday. His statements were confirmed by jail officials.
"I'm not going to freak out or anything," Baker said yesterday. "I'm okay . . . . I didn't actually think it would come back like that."
Jail officials have said it would be impossible to establish precisely when an inmate came in contact with the acquired immune deficiency syndrome virus.
They said inmates are frequently intravenous drug users and may have had intimate contact with infected people before being incarcerated but may not have been tested until after they entered a penal facility.
Baker's attorney, Carl Womack, said he is "in a quandary" over what action to take next because the presence of AIDS antibodies does not necessarily mean that someone will get the disease.
Justina Wells, director of the jail's medical center, said the procedure in such cases is to do "absolutely nothing" except offer the inmate information on the disease.
"There's no cure, no vaccine," she said.
Wells said the jail's policy is to keep infected inmates in the general population unless they request isolation or show irresponsible behavior toward other inmates. Baker said he wants to remain in the general population.
Estimates of the percentage of those exposed who will actually get the disease range from under 50 percent to 80 percent, health officials say.
The virus is rarely found in saliva, according to authorities at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda.
Baker said last month that he was upset that jail officials did not inform him that the man who shared his cell had been infected.
The man, who is now in isolation after having been released and arrested again since the biting incident, had used Baker's cup and toothbrush. At the time, he had bleeding gum sores, Baker and another inmate said.
The incident came in the midst of a review by Sheriff James A. Gondles Jr. of when to test inmates and what to do with those who test positive.
It is a debate that is going on across the nation and has drawn heated opinion from some inmates.
Prisoners in Indiana, New Jersey, New York and Alabama have filed lawsuits requesting that inmates who test positive for AIDS exposure be kept in isolation.
"It's a mess, truly a mess," said Gondles, who added that the issue of separating inmates based on their test results would pose serious problems of overcrowding and space use in jails.
"It's truly going to be a headache," he said.