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Officials: HIV-positive man infected teens in rural N.Y.

Published Oct. 2, 2005

An HIV-positive man traded drugs for sex with young women and teens he approached in schools and parks, infecting at least nine with the AIDS virus, authorities said Monday.

At least one other person was infected by one of the man's sex partners, and at least 70 others _ some as young as 13 _ may have been exposed to the virus in Chautauqua County in western New York, health officials said.

"He liked to lurk around the edges of schools or parks, maybe where kids would be playing basketball, and pick out young ladies who may, for one reason or another, be in a risk-taking mode," county Health Commissioner Robert Berke said.

"Sex for drugs appears to be implicated in at least some of the contacts," he said.

Nushawn Williams, 20, infected at least three women and possibly a fourth before learning he was HIV positive in September 1996, Berke said. But he continued having unprotected sex and directly infected at least six more before leaving the region in January, Berke said.

Williams, in jail since Sept. 23 in New York City on drug charges, faces an arrest warrant from Chautauqua County for statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl. Authorities were investigating the possibility of filing other charges.

Williams used more than a dozen aliases, including Face Williams and Face Johnson, in his frequent travels between New York City and western New York, and he may have had a large number of sexual contacts in other counties in New York state, health officials said.

"The worse piece of news is we are probably not the worst-case scenario," Berke said.

The state's confidentiality laws prevent people who are HIV-positive from being identified. But in arguing that his threat to the community overshadows his privacy rights, prosecutors persuaded a judge Monday to disclose Williams' identity and allow for his photograph to be distributed.

Officials counted 28 people who had direct sexual contact with Williams and 53 cases of secondary contact _ people who had sex with any of the 28. Seventeen other cases were still being studied, they said.

Investigators are looking into whether Williams intentionally infected the women, Berke said.

"He knew very well what could happen _ he was well-counseled" about the risks when he learned he was HIV positive, he said.

Twenty epidemiologists, HIV counselors, public health physicians and health educators are being sent by the state Health Department to Chautauqua County to work on the case. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent two staff members.

Chautauqua County, which borders Lake Erie, has a population of about 140,000, including 34,000 in Jamestown, its largest town. Mayville, the county seat, is about 300 miles northwest of New York City.

Students at Jamestown High School often hang out after classes at Veterans Park across the street.

"Hopefully, this might wake some people up, . . ." Jamestown Parks and Recreation Director Jack Fulford said. "Too many people don't know where their kids are and say, "This will never happen to my kid.' "