HIV LEGISLATION: ‘Archaic’ Law Rescinded

A national celebration in Grinnell, over a law that passed in Iowa.

For years critics have complained about a law that they call “draconian”, criminalizing some people living with HIV.

For eight months, Nick Rhoades lived with a criminal GPS bracelet on his ankle. Tuesday night it was cut off, symbolic, he says, of cutting the shackles that have kept him a prisoner; doing punishment, he says, that did not fit his crime.

“It’s been long time,” Rhoades said. “Your battery runs low at a double shift at work, you have to pull out your charger. Maybe go to the restroom to charge. It’s embarrassing. “

Rhoades pled guilty five years ago under the state’s HIV Criminal Transmission Law, passed in 1998, to having sex with another man without telling that man he was HIV positive. Even though he says his viral counts were low and he used a condom, Rhoades could have faced up to 25-years in prison, and is now listed on the sex offender registry.

Last week, the governor signed a bill that backers say takes the focus off people with HIV.

“Iowa is the first state to rescind the archaic HIV criminalization and replace it with something that really looks at HIV like it looks at hepatitis, looks at HPV. It makes HIV not a criminal act,” said Donna Red Wing with One Iowa.

The new law gets Rhoades off the sex offender registry next month and his probation is up soon. But it will be up to the Supreme Court to decide whether to overturn his felony conviction.

10 comments

  • John

    So….knowingly giving someone a deadly disease is not a crime? If you know you are HIV positive and have sex with someone without telling them, I think that should be a crime.

    • Anon

      No, it would still be a crime to knowingly transmit it, but if you are using condoms etc. then the transmission risk is negligible.

      “You can be convicted of the criminal transmission of an STD only if you cause someone else to be infected intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly.”

      • John

        Thanks for the info Anon!

        It still seems like you should have to tell your partner though. If the condom fails, and I end up infected, if I don’t know where I contracted it, it makes it harder for me to let anyone I may have infected know. And, I might not take precautions because I don’t think I’m infected. (Ok, making myself sound pretty loose here, huh? I’m just saying, there are people out there that could be in a situation like that, maybe had multiple partners over a period of time).

        sorry my comment showed up twice. It didn’t show up the first time, so, I rewrote it.

  • John

    So….putting someone in a situation where they are at risk of contracting a potentially fatal disease, without their knowledge, is ok?
    I’m sorry, this doesn’t seem right to me, seems like the other person should have the right to be made aware of the situation and make the decision for themselves if this is a risk they want to take.

  • Gerry

    Should have left the law alone. And Anaon’s account of this is way off. By that line of thinking, you could put 5 live rounds in a gun with one blank, point it at someone and pull the trigger because you “might not” fire a real bullet. Kinda stupid, huh?

      • Sue

        Yep, Gerry’s got a point. Playing around with a potentially deadly virus, and someone else’s life, is definitely reckless. Kind of like leaving a loaded gun laying around…there’s always the chance you won’t die! At least you would see the gun and KNOW you were in danger, with this, you have no idea!

  • do ur job

    Frankly, he should be happy that all he got was a bracelet and on the registry because I’m not so sure if I was the person he conveniently decided not to tell that I would be so benevolent.

    It was selish, rude, arrogant, and negligent to not allow the person to make their choice if a moment of happiness is worth the risk.

  • do ur job

    And it is negligent on 13s behalf to allow such nonsense to be publicly disseminated as the HIV virus is no worse than the HPV virus. Especially since the numbers were on the increase from the last report I heard because it wasn’t considered as dangerous.

  • someone

    This makes me sick…. We have a right know no matter what using protection or not… When they say condoms are 100% effective then ok…

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