HIV exposure charges dropped against gay former Atlanta man

Charges have been dropped against a gay former Atlanta man who faced years in prison after being accused of exposing a sex partner to HIV.

Tyler Orr was arrested at his home in Walhalla, S.C., in February 2015 and charged with two counts of exposing another person to HIV. The felony is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 10 years in prison. 

Oconee County Sheriff’s deputies alleged that Orr had unprotected sex at least twice with a man in December 2014. Authorities say the man reported the encounters to sheriff's deputies after he learned that Orr is HIV-positive. But Orr, an HIV activist, said at the time that he told his partner he was HIV-positive before they had sex.

Orr said the charges against him were dropped due to a lack of evidence.

“I was wanting to go to trial, but it never went that way,” Orr said. “The prosecutor could never get a hold of the [accuser], so it was just dropped.”

Officials with the 10th Judicial Circuit in South Carolina, which was prosecuting the case, and the court clerk's office did not respond to requests for comment. Project Q reviewed a copy of an expungement order from the prosecutor's office confirming the charges were wiped from Orr’s record.

Orr lived in Atlanta for about a year before returning to his native Walhalla in June 2014. He had been involved with the Greater Than AIDS campaign, and in February 2015 attended the Georgia GSA Summit at Agnes Scott College in Decatur. The day-long event addressed LGBTQ health, advocacy and social justice.

He was arrested later that month.

Orr said the accuser wore a wire to a meeting with him at Orr’s house, and sheriff's deputies showed up the next day to arrest him.

Orr said that more than three years later, he’s still not sure why the accuser made his claims.

“I think it’s more of a hate crime in my opinion,” he said. “I have no idea why he would be that way or turn that way. I don’t know whether for attention or what. But the attention was all on me. He’s been anonymous this whole time.”

The 28-year-old said he’s picked up part-time work with a local business and he’s just trying to stay busy.

“I try to be a strong person, but days do get pretty rough,” he said. “But knowing it’s dropped and knowing I knew I was in the right the whole time, it’s a good feeling. I’ve had a lot more support than negative, but there has been a handful of negative.”

South Carolina and Georgia are among three-dozen states that criminalize a lack of HIV disclosure. LGBTQ and HIV activists say the laws increase stigma around HIV and fail to consider whether condoms are used and if the disease is transmitted.