by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University
You may not know the name Nushawn Williams, but it's probably a name you need to know. You would especially want your daughter to know his name, as well as anyone else in the community who has reason to fear a more disturbing style of sexual predator for the new millenium.
Williams is in prison right now for knowingly infecting women with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. His victims were as young as 13 years old, and authorities believe he may have infected as many as 50 women prior to going to state prison in 1998. Police are working to keep Williams behind bars because they fear what might happen if he is released to the American public.
"He is prone to further sexual contact with underage individuals because of deficits in his emotional capacity to understand why this is wrong and attitudes that support these types of exploitive encounters. His emotional callousness, lack of remorse and impulsivity undermine important internal mechanisms for managing his sexual behavior," said examiner Jacob E. Hadden from the New York State Office of Mental Health. Authorities have determined that Williams suffers from a mental health abnormality that makes him incapable of understanding why his actions are wrong or harmful.
The possible release of Williams reminds us of the urgency of managing the public health alarm called HIV infection. African Americans are taking the lead in HIV infection rates, and what is also true is that the experience in our community is nothing less than a precursor to what is eventually going to happen all throughout America. What is most frightening about the case of Nushawn Williams is that he is probably not the only person deliberately spreading the disease: there are likely women and other men doing the same thing. To make matters worse, there are many in our community (and others) who are being incredibly irresponsible with their sexual behavior and infecting scores of people in the process.
As I felt empathy for celebrities like Magic Johnson and Eazy-E for their battles with HIV/AIDS, I wondered how many of us thought about the long list of partners they infected before finally getting their own positive test results. Did you ever think about the fact that many of those people are out in the community right now, quite a few of whom may have taken years to become aware of their HIV positive status? This is scary indeed, so the truth is that to protect yourself from the silent community killer, a general strategy of protection must be put into play.