Iowa Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument in Lambda Legal Case Challenging HIV-Based Conviction
March 10, 2014
This conviction cannot stand because a person living with HIV who is receiving effective medical treatment and who uses a condom is not guilty of a crime under Iowa law.
Des Moines, IA -- Today the Iowa Supreme Court heard arguments in Lambda Legal's case representing Nick Rhoades, an HIV-positive Iowan in his appeal for post-conviction relief. Rhoades was initially sentenced to 25 years in prison with registration as a sex offender after having a one-time sexual encounter with another man during which they used a condom. His partner did not contract HIV.
"Iowa's law concerning the criminal transmission of HIV requires the State to show that a defendant engaged in conduct that could result in the transmission of HIV," said Christopher Clark, Counsel for Lambda Legal. "At the time of the alleged crime, Mr. Rhoades had an undetectable viral load and he used a condom -- he was clearly protecting his partner from exposure to the virus. And the growing medical consensus is that there is no real possibility of transmission under these circumstances."
Thirty-nine states have HIV-specific criminal statutes. 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.
"Iowa's law that criminalizes people living with HIV is a particularly unjust and extreme. It subjects them to unwarranted prosecution and punishment, and has not proven effective in reducing new infections," said Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Director for Lambda Legal. "Nick Rhoades's story and the extreme sentence imposed in this case illustrate how these types of laws are outdated and unnecessary. They are abusively misused against people who have no desire or intention to harm anyone."
The case is Nick Rhoades v. State of Iowa, for more information, visit our case page here.
Christopher Clark, Counsel in Lambda Legal's Midwest Regional Office and Scott A. Schoettes, HIV Project Director are handling the case for Lambda Legal. They are joined by Joseph C. Glazebrook and Dan L. Johnston with Glazebrook & Moe, LLP based in Des Moines, Iowa.
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