Las Vegas Sun

December 11, 2023

Police say HIV growing threat among call girls

Patricia Edgerly tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS more than 10 years ago, according to Metro Police. Since then, police have arrested her for prostitution at least seven times.

Her most recent arrest was Tuesday. The same night, police also arrested Sandra Knight, 31, for the same offense, engaging in prostitution after testing positive for HIV.

Metro knows of 368 HIV-infected prostitutes who are working the streets of Las Vegas, Metro Vice Sgt. Gil Shannon said.

And as of Thursday, police have arrested 17 HIV-positive prostitutes this year, compared to 15 in 2002, Shannon said.

"It's quite serious since these prostitutes are out there on a regular basis and most of the people who frequent them are in relationships, then they go home to their families," Shannon said.

Most law enforcement officials agree that for prostitutes, getting arrested is merely an inconvenience that takes up a few hours of their time.

But felony prostitution -- soliciting after being tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS -- carries a penalty of two to 10 years in prison.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Bill Hehn said he has never seen anyone convicted of the offense actually serve time, however. The law has been on the books since 1987.

"They're always given probation," Hehn said. "As a prosecutor it's my job to at least try and get the courts to give them a jail sentence. ... But there's only so much you can do."

While Nevada is the only state in the nation where prostitution is legal in some counties in licensed brothels, it's not legal in Clark County, and soliciting sex on the street is outlawed statewide.

Prostitution is limited to counties with populations under 400,000. Currently, 14 of the state's 17 counties allow prostitution.

Licensed prostitutes are required to take a monthly HIV test in addition to multiple other tests for sexually transmitted diseases. To date, no licensed prostitute has tested positive for HIV, authorities said.

When police arrest illegal prostitutes, Nevada law requires them to draw blood to test for the HIV virus. Authorities inform prostitutes who test positive that they have the virus, and they warn them that if they continue to solicit sex they could risk giving the virus to someone and be charged with a felony.

Edgerly, 49, tested positive in January 1993, records show. Since then, she has been picked up for soliciting prostitution seven times, police records show, and served time in state prison for it. Police arrested her five times for loitering for the purpose of prostitution.

Knight has been arrested for soliciting prostitution six times since November 2002. Records don't show when she tested positive for HIV.

Shannon said he has no way of knowing if any prostitutes passed the HIV virus along to any customers, but he said that "sometimes we get an upset wife who says 'We want her caught' because her husband has HIV and he gave it to her," he said.

Condom use has no effect on whether an HIV-infected prostitute can be arrested for felony prostitution, Hehn said.

"Using a condom doesn't mean it's safe," he said, adding that "staying married and staying loyal" is the best way to have safe sex.

While HIV-positive prostitutes in Clark County may not face much punishment, the story is different in Washoe County.

In July 2002, an HIV-positive Reno prostitute who continued to solicit sex was sentenced to six years in prison. She tested positive in March 2002 and was arrested a month later for continuing to work the streets.

The Nevada Supreme Court threw out the conviction of a 30-year-old HIV-infected prostitute in 1998, however. A Washoe district judge had given the women a 10-year sentence, but the high court ruled that there was not enough evidence to prove she solicited sex from an undercover officer.