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Iowa Supreme Court Will Review Nick Rhoades' HIV Criminalization Case

January 24, 2014

Nick Rhoades, 39, an Iowa man who pleaded guilty in 2009 to "criminal transmission of HIV," will have his case heard before the Iowa Supreme Court, according to the Des Moines Register.

Although the man with whom Rhoades engaged in oral sex remains HIV negative, Rhoades had an undetectable viral load, and they used a condom during the sexual encounter, the man was able to sue Rhoades because he did not disclose his HIV-positive status. Rhoades' lawyer advised him to plead guilty, and after an initial sentence of 25 years in prison, Rhoades' sentence was reduced to the time he'd already served.

Rhoades' case has garnered national attention, including coverage in CNN, BuzzFeed, POZ I AM Radio and the documentary HIV Is Not a Crime by anti-criminalization advocate Sean Strub. It is the most high-profile of several criminalization cases that have received media attention in the U.S. in recent years, including Minnesota v. Rick and a burgeoning HIV criminalization scandal in Missouri.

Many in the HIV community feel criminalization relies on outdated science to institutionalize hate, as sound science now shows that the risk of transmission with the use of a condom and/or an undetectable viral load is usually negligible. Many also worry that criminalization may discourage HIV testing, as those who do not know their status cannot be held accountable for transmission.

To read more on Nick Rhoades' case, please visit the Des Moines Register. To learn more about HIV criminalization, please visit's HIV/AIDS Transmission Cases index.

Mathew Rodriguez is the editorial project manager for and

Follow Mathew on Twitter: @mathewrodriguez.

Copyright © 2014 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

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This article was provided by TheBody.

Reader Comments:

Comment by: An old flame (Chicago) Fri., Mar. 25, 2016 at 8:30 pm UTC
I dated Nick briefly years ago. This was before he was infected. He insisted we use condoms. Nick is a great person who would never put anyone at risk.
Reply to this comment

Comment by: SEL (Los Angeles) Wed., Jan. 29, 2014 at 8:04 pm UTC
While having HIV is certainly no crime, putting someone at risk for catching the disease is a crime regardless of one's viral load. All you need to do is ask yourself would you want someone to do that to you? i think not. People should be allowed to chose whether or not they want to have sex with an HIV positive person regardless of their viral load. I know it is hard having this disease, but we have got to be responsible with it because that is how many of us got infected, from another HIV positive person who failed to disclosure. Failure to disclose is a crime and we cannot back pedal from our responsibilities. We have too far for that.
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: bartleby Thu., Jan. 30, 2014 at 2:42 pm UTC
in this case, he was "allowed to choose," as you put it. and he chose to have sex with nick rhoades. nobody forced him to.

responsibility goes both ways. they used a condom. that was responsible. HIV is not the only STD out there and you can't simply take someone's word that they're negative.

laws like these just create more stigma and discourage people from getting tested and knowing their status.

yours is the same argument over and over. "people have the right to know if someone is positive." sorry, no. people who are positive have the right to privacy and do not need to disclose anything. if two consenting adults wanna have sex, they both assume the responsibilities and consequences. it's simple, use a condom.

why is HIV singled out? should we be criminalizing every STD then? because other STDs can be deadly if left untreated and can also be chronic, but manageable like HIV. For example, HPV, which can still be transmitted even with a condom and can lead to cancer, isn't criminalized.

but most important, i don't understand Nick's initial sentence of 25 years in prison, even though they used a condom (proven method of preventing HIV transmission) and the man is still negative! why don't you put yourself in Nick's shoes? two consenting adults have protected sex and one of them has to go to prison for 25 years? that sound reasonable to you? stop perpetuating shame and stigma, thanks.
Comment by: Les (San Diego) Fri., Jan. 31, 2014 at 12:29 am UTC
There is no utility in mandatory disclosure. It doesn't "prevent" anything, and any attempt to claim otherwise ignores both science and common sense. When you talk about people's "right to know" if a person is HIV+ in the absence of a legitimate prevention argument, what you're really talking about is an desire to segregate people simply for having been diagnosed.

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