Since the 1990’s, Iowa Code 709-C has made failing to disclose your HIV status a class “B” felony, punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
It’s a law that HIV and AIDS advocates hope legislators change in 2013.
Laura Friest has lived with HIV for more than 13 years.
However, she’s not some-one most people associate with the disease.
“It’s known as the gay disease unfortunately,” said Friest.
She’s a straight female who contracted HIV from a male partner who never told her he was infected.
Today she lives with and sees the stigmas that come along with the disease each day.
“People are afraid to touch our hands or shake our hands. They’re afraid to be near us,” Friest told Channel 13 News.
You may think someone in Laura’s situation would support the 709-C law, but instead, she’s against it.
“I think the law in Iowa is extremely harsh right now.”
Rhea Van Brocklin agrees.
She’s the executive director for the AIDS Project of Central Iowa and volunteers with an AIDS/HIV advocacy group called CHAIN.
The group believes 709-C singles out those infected and feels that HIV should she be treated the same way as other serious infectious diseases.
“It doesn’t account for actual transmission to occur. It does not place the burden on both parties on whether or not precautions were used to prevent transmission,” said Van Brocklin.
She says the group is working with legislators and state health officials to get the law off the books, claiming that it discourages people from being responsible about their health.
“As a result of this law, people are afraid to disclose their status. People are afraid to get tested.”
Before the law is addressed by legislators, advocates like rhea are hosting events.
They’re hoping to change the way people think about HIV.
“HIV doesn’t stop me from living my life whether I’m positive or not,” Van Brocklin said.