The Iowa Court of Appeals today upheld the conviction of Nick Rhoades, a gay man who did not disclose his HIV+ status to a sex partner he met online in 2008. His partner, who did not become infected, called police after learning of the man’s HIV status even though condoms were used during their encounter. At his trial, Rhoades pleaded guilty on the advice of his counsel at the time and was sentenced 25 years in prison and ordered to register as a sex offender. The sentence was suspended several months later and Rhoades was placed on five years of probation. Lambda Legal, who represented Rhoades in his appeal, reacts via press release:
“We’re extremely disappointed that the Iowa Court of Appeals is allowing Mr. Rhoades’s conviction to stand because it was based on a misinterpretation of the plain language of the statute,” said Christopher Clark, Senior Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal. “Someone who engages in safe sex, as Nick did, does not have the intent required to support a conviction under Iowa’s law concerning the criminal transmission of HIV. Lambda Legal will assist Nick in evaluating his current options, which include a request that the Iowa Supreme Court hear this case.” Thirty-nine states have HIV-specific criminal statutes or have brought HIV-related criminal charges resulting in more than 160 prosecutions in the United States in the past four years. Among other things, HIV criminalization perpetuates the many myths and misconceptions that fuel other types of discrimination against people living with HIV. It sends an inaccurate message regarding prevention responsibility, creates a disincentive to getting tested, and may actually discourage disclosure of HIV status.
Read more about the case here.