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Iowa Man Sentenced to 25 Years for Not Disclosing His HIV Status

May 20, 2009

Nick Clayton Rhoades, a 34-year-old HIV-positive man from Iowa, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to a charge of not disclosing his status to another man before having sex with him, according to the WCF Courier. There was no mention regarding whether protection was used. In addition to his lengthy sentence, Rhoades must register as a sex offender, enter a sex offender treatment program, face lifetime parole, pay court costs and restitution, and for the next five years avoid all contact with the man he exposed to HIV.

As Judge Bradley Harris pronounced Rhoades' sentence, the maximum possible for this class of crime, he said to Rhoades, "You don't look like most of our criminals that sit here, but the risk is still there, just like if you would have shot a gun." Rhoades himself concurred with this statement, saying that living with HIV was like "carrying a concealed weapon."

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See Also
Some Groups Say Iowa HIV Transmission Law Worsens Stigma, Hinders Testing Efforts
More on HIV Transmission Cases

Reader Comments:

Comment by: SDS (Boston area) Sat., Jun. 12, 2010 at 3:27 am UTC
I hav been positive for a few months and I have had sex with one escort since. I disclosed to him that I was positive and we used all protection but he may now claim that I did not tell him. I mean he is screwing everyone and anyone that plopps down $100 to play!!!!!
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Comment by: r (chicago) Wed., Mar. 3, 2010 at 9:29 pm UTC
I hooked up with a guy online. We used protection and i started bleeding so I told him to stop. He wouldn't. I became hiv positive 4 weeks later.
I feel like he knew he was positive.
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Comment by: Thierry Perrier (paris) Wed., Dec. 9, 2009 at 12:34 pm UTC
If Philipppe Anzini read this message, he can contact me to the following address : thx
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Comment by: Victor (Alabama) Tue., Nov. 24, 2009 at 8:02 pm UTC
If you are HIV positive then you have an ethical obligation to tell your partner your status. It is that simple. The same applies if you have hepatitis. Why should it be so hard to know to do the right thing?
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Comment by: Ryan (Australia) Wed., Nov. 18, 2009 at 6:18 pm UTC
I have had a similar experience to the story above about the Rhoades guy. I met a man, started a relationship with him. Before we had sex I asked him of his status etc and how his health was. He swore blind that there was nothing wrong with him and said that he gets tested regularly etc etc. Foolishly, one night I had unprotected sex with him. A few weeks later I found out he was HIV positive. The torment, distress, anger, fear that I lived with from the time I found that out about him up until the time I got the courage to get tested was unbearable. My life was hell. It took me 12 months before I actually got the test - I'm negative! I think 25 years is not long enough for that man. I understand, the situation he put the guy he had sex with in - it is unbearable. The not knowing, the constant fear, sleeples nights, loss of appetite. Im happy the judge gave a harsh sentence. This man deserved it for what he put the other guy through!!
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Comment by: justme+ (NC) Mon., Oct. 26, 2009 at 10:12 am UTC
It takes two to tango, even if someone is positive the other one is at fault for not wearing a condom either. Even if he says he is clean nobody knows their status all the time even if they are tested regularly duh
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Comment by: emma (galway, ireland) Fri., Aug. 28, 2009 at 5:18 pm UTC
madness and grand injustice, that's what i call this type of justice.
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Comment by: Donald Baxter (Iowa City, Iowa) Mon., Aug. 17, 2009 at 11:12 am UTC
I was involved in a case where I had to defend myself from a driver who tried to run me down on my bicycle. I foolishly confronted this man after his irresponsible action and he assaulted me with a four foot long stick. I was still straddling my bike when he poked me in the face repeatedly with his finger--the last poke went in my mouth and i bit him. Being HIV positive, I was the one who ended up being charged with assault in my so-called liberal college town. Two of the five county attorneys wanted me charged with the very same law that Nick Rhoades is now doing 25 years for. I missed doing the same jail time Nick is doing by the grace one vote of a county attorney. Iowa's HIV law is a scandal. We have human rights violations right here on the prairie that hardly anyone recognizes perhaps because legal gay marriage has overshadowed some important issues. Homophobia and HIV/AIDS stigma still rules even in our most educated communities in a very well-educated state.
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Comment by: moonlite (Des Moines, IA) Sun., Aug. 16, 2009 at 6:42 pm UTC
There are so many people in my state, who refuse to use protection. Truly! Most teens won't. Most 40's and older won't. This is a case from Iowa. Unless a couple goes to a clinic together and each person shares test results, one cannot know HIV/AIDS or HepC status. That's the facts, as I know them.

Really, it's evident, that Iowa's Judicial System is not abreast of its population's sexual behaviors.

When the average age of a person's first sexual encounter is preteen, 10-12 years of age, it's likely that the average person IS going to get an STD before that age of 18 years. Following this reasoning, the next most likely group of HIV/AIDS or HepC sufferers will be teens.

Parents and older siblings try to educate, but all too often kids refuse to take STDs seriously until its too late. Educators in Iowa are very limited in their authority to educate sex. Unfortunately, this leaves the Judicial or some other body of power, to make rulings and penalties. I'm not happy nor is any parent.

Iowa needs to create, then, examine surveys regarding sexual behavior. Then, a team of planners and specialists can create reasonable expectations and proceedures regarding transmision by sex of disease. Last, those can be formatted into recommendations, and a lobbying group can try to pass legislation to help all those who work with youth and other high risks populations.
National Prevention Information Network:
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Comment by: Rory (Wexford, Ireland) Sat., Aug. 15, 2009 at 12:55 am UTC
This is madness. How can anyone respect the law when sentences like this are handed out, everyone knows the risks of unprotected sex and should be responsible for their own actions and not blame the other party.
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Comment by: Save Nick (los angeles, ca) Fri., Jul. 3, 2009 at 3:28 am UTC
It's a very confusing situation. Each state treats laws differently and makes decisions based on what way their community leans. Iowa, being a more conservative state, even though they just passed gay marriage, which is astounding and exciting to me. So in their own way they're accepting homosexuals into the community. I have a lot of friends in Los Angeles, who have HIV and there's still a stigma. I contracted HIV from someone who did not disclose the information to me. It changed my life completely and I wanted to just die at that point. I also had a doctor who told me to keep my status to myself, unless I was having unprotected sex with someone. But I feel the need to share, because I would want that in return. It does carry a certain stigma, but so many people that you know have it. Especially the gay culture in Los Angeles. Going back to Rhoades, I don't think 25 years is really fair. One person is made an example of and in this extreme case, is now sitting behind bars while real killers are in the streets, killing, raping, molesting children. I think there needs to be a law, but who was this guy who complained? Is his dad the judge and his mom the state attorney? They let OJ Simpson go. That's right, I'm going back to that. This legal system needs to be overhauled and people need to be smacked. How can you trust lawmakers, attorneys and jurors who are hopped up on Starbucks and Redbull, who go home and beat their wives and/or children, or their puds, just to relieve their stressed lives, for taking a job purely based on how much they would be paid or what their parents made them do. Watch out for MAHI - Mothers Against HIV Infection, because this is so very fishy to me.
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Comment by: wtf in maine (maine) Fri., Jun. 26, 2009 at 10:06 am UTC
The responsibility to protect one's self from HIV is in one's own hands. In regards to an earlier post regarding life-span for hiv'ers with medication....Yes, it has helped to vastly prolong life, however, it is still a terminal condition and for those without access to meds, the average time from infection to on-set of full blown AIDS is still approx 10 years. Chronic Manageabale Condition means having Continuous Medical Care...not all do!
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Comment by: KL NYC (KL NYC) Mon., Jun. 8, 2009 at 10:07 pm UTC
I think the lesson is to stay out of Iowa. And to always disclose....and pick people carefully.

These kind of cases don't tend to happen with sophisticated judges in L.A. or NYC. But in the boondocks where everyone is ignorant--all the judges and all the police and all the lawyers, you're kinda screwed.
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Comment by: Poz Mike (Los Angeles, CA) Mon., Jun. 8, 2009 at 9:44 pm UTC
So, what are we supposed to do? Have an attorney draw up a disclosure form that we have all of our sex partners sign before any physical contact takes place? The message I get from this is not to get tested in the first place! Evidently, it is better not to know. You cannot disclose what you don't know. As for those of us who already know, I don't know what the solution is.
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Comment by: glrx (Fort Lauderdale) Mon., Jun. 8, 2009 at 11:22 am UTC
First, to depend on someone's answer to the question "Are you clean?" as one's main effort in avoiding becoming HIV positive is ridiculous. Everyone should assume that everyone else is positive. The person asked may be positive and not know it, despite having been negative on a recent test. Verbal questioning is not any form of safe sex as far as any information source on avoiding HIV I have ever seen.

Secondly, HIV is not a death sentence as it was in the past. I believe these laws that were introduced on the basis of HIV being a fatal disease need to be re-visited, based on the fact that the average life span of an HIV positive person is not much less than a negative person, thanks to the new treatments available. It is now a manageable chronic illness.
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Comment by: Adam (united kingdom) Mon., Jun. 8, 2009 at 9:31 am UTC
I really cannot beleive the viewpoint of the judge who passed down the sentence or of some of the morons on here!

HIV is a virus- not a gun or a knife, but a virus, like the cold virus or the wart virus. Until we stop stigmatising it and making it out to be a dirty disease, then however can we hope to find a cure?

The reason that most people don't want to disclose their status before sex is precisely because the disease is so stigmatised and they are frightened of other people finding out that they have it and treating them like lepers.

In any case, it is our responsibility as individuals to protect ourselves by having safer sex with condoms.

If nothing is done about this poor man's 25 year sentence, then I think Mr Obama should step in & voice his opinion.

The USA -- land of the not so free -- glad I don't live there!
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Comment by: Alessandro (Italy) Mon., Jun. 1, 2009 at 11:23 pm UTC
I can't believe this article. I mean, I simply cannot believe it. 25 years in jail for "putting" someone at risk even if the guy tested negative? And we do not even know if it was safe sex or not? Of whether the guy was under treatment or not (viral load under 50 makes people "almost" not infectious... that at least what Swiss doctors say!). I simply cannot believe it. 25 years?!? In my country you don't even get that for homicide!! Please Americans, stand up against this, it's such an injustice... do not let that guy alone. Peace. Alex.
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Comment by: Justin (Phoenix, Arizona) Mon., Jun. 1, 2009 at 5:17 am UTC
I want to roll back to Paul in Phoenix, YOUR IGNORANT for your post. I got HIV when I was raped by a man that slipped GHB into my drink and they could do NOTHING about it. HE DESERVED JAIL TIME! Being in the gay community we all know time and time again people don't ask, and you should ALWAYS assume that your partner is poz. That was always my rule, and take measures to protect yourself. If you're putting yourself in compromising sexual situations like this other man did, then he was lucky this time that he didn't get anything. But he STILL should have protected himself. HIV is an STD, so I think every person that spreads, herpes, clap, gonorrhea and syphilis should have to register as sex offenders to then and get jail time. I had a friend go blind in one eye because someone gave him syphilis and didn't tell him they had it. I think that this is blatant misuse of the judicial system and I plan to personally not only write to this judge, but also do everything in my power to get him and every other ignorant person like him off the bench. WAKE UP PEOPLE! They are you taking your rights and making us out to be leopards, this could happen to any of us. FIGHT BACK if we all stand united together they WILL hear our voices. Fight not only for this man, but also for yourselves, and the people that will come next. It's only a matter of time that they will have us all registering somewhere. FIGHT BACK!
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Comment by: Peter (Foster City ) Mon., Jun. 1, 2009 at 2:56 am UTC
Actually, it came out in the courtroom that the HIV+ man wore a condom for insertive anal sex, but the oral sex was unprotected. The reporter mentioned in the blog was present during the trial at the invitation of the "victim" and published an article that included few facts and much gossip.
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Comment by: Ron (Iowa) Mon., Jun. 1, 2009 at 1:23 am UTC
Well......Might as well just turn myself in to the sheriff's office tonight! Being poz is a crime in itself.
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Comment by: Mark (Cleveland ,OH) Mon., Jun. 1, 2009 at 12:07 am UTC
We have spent years teaching people who have HIV to have safe sex. I guess now the only sex HIVers should be having is no sex??? How about social kissing? Does that carry just a 10 year sentence? Or how about a handshake from an HIVer -- maybe just 30 days in the klink and a waterboarding session! Land of the free, home of the brave.....indeed!
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Comment by: Adam (NY) Fri., May. 29, 2009 at 10:16 pm UTC
The question for our society is what lessons will the individual learn from these sentences.

The lesson for the individual:

Because if you do test positive, you don't only have to deal with being positive and getting rejected, you are also one small step away from being a criminal.

The result for the society:

People are even more afraid than ever to get tested and keep telling themselves and others that they must be negative, while in fact they are the most infectious people out there who 'innocently' spread HIV further and further.

The solution:

Sentences of shared responsibility. Having consensual, unprotected sex constitutes mutual agreement of shared risk and, if punishable, has to be shared somehow between the parties.


Until it is acceptable for people to admit their positive status, this vicious cycle will never end -- and could possibly spiral out of control.

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Comment by: Goodman (Ireland) Fri., May. 29, 2009 at 8:41 pm UTC
no human being deserves hiv. it's shameful and inhumane that a positive man got 25 yrs sentence for failing to disclose. my question to that judge is''how many years will u give somebody who infect his or her sexual partner with another type of STD?'' hiv is an STD but the only difference is that it hasn't got a cure yet. i wanna stress that the actions of this type bigoted judge is promoting stigma against people living with hiv. if it's crime to have hiv, the world will set up a standard for dealing with this particular crime. the question of those who doesn't know their hiv status and could pass it on if they're positive must be addresed. my heart goes out to all people inflicted with this incurable disease. u're all grat people that deserves respect.
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Comment by: The Ever Mad Dr. X (Pittsburgh, PA) Thu., May. 28, 2009 at 8:07 pm UTC
The plaintiff is an idiot for being so frickin' naive and reckless. The defendant is an idiot for using self-induced impairment as a "mental" alibi. The sentence is ridiculous given the fact the plaintiff is an HIV negative naive reckless idiot. ?Has the plaintiff engaged in unprotected sex acts with others regardless of HIV status? Mmmmmm. The gun comparisons...? Shot a gun at what? Judge Harris, please elaborate and consider the "ifs." Criminal intent? Self-protection? Insanity? Crime of passion? (Listen carefully for the warm relaxing contemporary muzak being played in the background...yuk) And Rhoades' statement comparing HIV to a concealed weapon!; is he still high?! It's legal to carry a concealed gun in some areas of the U.S.A., e.g., the beautiful family friendly national parks! People infected with HIV, show us your weapon!!!
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Comment by: Allen (New York City) Wed., May. 27, 2009 at 6:19 pm UTC
Really? Gee I wonder if the accused had not disclosed his herpes , then not given his sex partner herpes, if he would also get 25 years for that?
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Comment by: gil Wed., May. 27, 2009 at 9:04 am UTC
I agree with John regarding internalized homophobia. I know it's unrealistic, but it's hard to imagine in 2009 a gay man having unprotected sex and assuming that this is "SAFE" safe for what? Safe for HPV (which can lead to cancer), gonorrhea, syphillis, herpes, HIV? Even if someone thought they were NEGATIVE. If you're hooking up regularly and having unprotected sex then you may have gotten HIV yesterday and NOT know you have HIV. And if you got HIV, you probably got HPV can see how silly this all is. Now we don't know if they had protected or unprotected sex. If it was protected then the accuser should be jailed. I hope someone outs him soon cause he deserves to hear the outcry from the gay community.
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Comment by: RSH (Philadelphia, PA) Wed., May. 27, 2009 at 8:41 am UTC
I agree with the sentence. It's more important to be closed minded to this virus and punish the people who are unfortunate to have it in any way you can. After all it's their fault they have it. Right? Hopefully this will help prevent society from making advances toward understanding and a cure. Let's stay in the dark ages as long as we can.
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Comment by: Astounded (Iowa) Wed., May. 27, 2009 at 3:45 am UTC
I urge all of the people who have commented here to contact this judge through the link at the end of the article. Maybe if he hears enough feedback we can get him do do something about it. All we have is the victim's word that he asked if the man was "clean" and no actual transmission took place. This sentence puts everyone with the disease at risk, all it takes is a vindictive partner and we all could be doing this kind of time.
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Comment by: texas12 (dallas) Mon., May. 25, 2009 at 9:57 pm UTC
I believe you shouldn't have to disclose information about being Hiv positive, but if the person asks you and you say no or if you don't tell and have unprotected sex, then you deserve the jail time. Now the 25 years is harsh, but the legal system is trying to prove a point, that if you want to have sex, you have to inform them if they ask or if the other wants unprotected sex. And if you don't want them to know, THEN DON'T HAVE SEX!!!
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Comment by: John (New York) Sun., May. 24, 2009 at 2:45 pm UTC
The court's ruling is absurd and counterproductive and the plaintiff's holier-than-thou attitude totally offensive, probably some kind of reaction formation reflective of internalized homophobia. This case shows how far much of America and the world needs to come to cope effectively and compassionately with this disease.
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Comment by: Paul (Phoenix) Sat., May. 23, 2009 at 8:32 pm UTC
Even though 25 years is a harsh sentence. I do agree that if you are HIV + and have been caught having unprotected sex without disclosing your status. Then you should be registered as a sex offender.

I myself am HIV +, and I think its disgusting that people who are HIV+ don't disclose their status. Before sex. In fact HIV+ shouldn't even be able to hook-up. Because you are putting others at risk. And Hiv negative people should not be so ignorant either.

But I think more blame lies on the HIV+ person. Because they knew their status and didn't disclose it. Giving HIV to someone is like murder that will eventually kill you if you are not on medication.
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Comment by: pozzieposse (germany) Sat., May. 23, 2009 at 6:27 am UTC
If anything it should be the 'accuser' who should have to stand trail. For raging stupidity and shameless irresponsibility. It has always and still does take 'two to tango' and both are equally responsible for their actions. Any sentence, for either one, would be a farce, but in this case (25 years for lying-idiot-boy!?) it is nothing short of oppression. And a signal to all irresponsible cowards that they can continue their games. I am disgusted at this news.
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Comment by: Absolutle Irresponsible Judge (New York) Fri., May. 22, 2009 at 4:10 pm UTC
This is a most disturbing sentnce for this man. The judge reflects how irresponsible and the absolute lack of wisdom our judges can bestow. This judge should be removed from the bench. When anyone has casual sex one should assume the possibilities, including dishonesty from the other party, and take precautions and asssume responsibilities for what may result. Why are herpes and other transmittable diseases excluded from legalities? And one commentor was correct in saying people just want someone else to blame.... Unfortunatly that is most evident in republicans, sociopaths-which are rampant in our country, and the attitude of this country as a whole.
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Comment by: Seekyah (California) Fri., May. 22, 2009 at 3:49 am UTC
This is stupid. So am I able to sue my husband. He lied to me when I asked about his past drug habits. Now I have to live the 2nd half of my life with a disease that the country I supposedly love treats you as a criminal. Damned if you do Damned if you don't..
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Comment by: CK (New York) Thu., May. 21, 2009 at 2:49 pm UTC
The laws in some states find someone guilty even if you make every attempt to practice safe sex or have low risk sex. Just the fact that you did not disclose makes you guilty. Low risk activities technically include deep kissing (the bleeding gum scenario), you probably have a better chance of getting struck by lightening, but nevertheless some moron could put you in jail for deep kissing technically. So.....we cannot even kiss anyone without having a legal contract with that person. I guess I should hire full time legal counsel. The laws in this country are insane. If you deliberately barebacked with someone and you know you are positive that is a different story. But if you make every attempt to respect safe sex/low risk practices.......the person you are having sex with has the same responsibility that you one is guilty....both are just trying to enjoy each other the safest way possible. Too bad everyone in the United States is "sue" happy. "Blame everyone but yourself" is their motto.
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Comment by: kiki Thu., May. 21, 2009 at 9:11 am UTC
So one gay man hooks up with another gay man and I imagine they have unprotected sex. And the negative man just assumes that he can ask someone he's met two minutes before "are you clean?"whatever that's supposed to mean and get an honest answer. How stupid is that? The poz guy was wrong for sure but he pleaded GUILTY and still got 25 years! He felt remorse. The idiot accuser was still feeling self righteous. And I bet the moron is still asking his internet hook ups "are you clean?" and expecting a responsible, honest answer.
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Comment by: queerboi (amherst, MA) Thu., May. 21, 2009 at 8:23 am UTC
Let the "Buyer Beware". Everyone has the option to protect themselves and practice safe sex or take a chance.
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Comment by: RC (Montgomery, AL) Thu., May. 21, 2009 at 8:09 am UTC
I think it's insane this sentence was allowed to occur and I'm furious about it! In these times of HIV awareness no one should be having unprotected sex with anyone else. I fault the accuser just as much as the accused. Isn't this what awareness is all about? If this kind of bigotry is allowed in our country, we are all doomed!
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Comment by: MC (Trenton, NJ) Thu., May. 21, 2009 at 7:16 am UTC
25 years and the accuser is not even positive? Crazy........
So what's the deal ?....are we to have "written contracts" with everyone we have sex with to prove that we disclosed? We could be blackmailed by ANYONE if we have no written proof of disclosure....... even if we did disclose.....a jury would not believe us, they would most likely believe the accuser that we did not....... People are getting "hysterical" over this disease and it is showing in some insane laws.
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Comment by: TC (Newark, NJ) Thu., May. 21, 2009 at 6:42 am UTC
Absolutely insane that prison sentences are being given to those who do not disclose status. I understand that the man did lie about his status and of course no one likes to be lied to.......but 25 years prison time and life time of parole as a sentence? Just insanity on the judge's part. Someone could even be convicted if an accuser DID NOT ASK the HIV status of a person, only by the fact that the HIV + person did not voluntarily disclose. Why don't they just tattoo "HIV +" on our foreheads and isolate us on some remote island somewhere. I guess we have no privacy rights at all.
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Comment by: Astounded (Iowa) Thu., May. 21, 2009 at 1:01 am UTC
I don't believe this article mentions it, but the accuser has not contracted HIV from this encounter. I believe that a case like this would be akin to driving under the influence, in that it holds risk, first time offenders so little if any jail time, especially if no one got hurt, though the potential for disaster is there, on a larger scale. For a man to be sentenced to 25 years in prison and lifetime parole when he didn't even actually transmit the infection is incredible and a travesty of justice. Are we not, as individuals, responsible for protecting ourselves? Responisble for our own behavior?
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Comment by: john (ky) Wed., May. 20, 2009 at 11:43 pm UTC
great comment sexpoz!!!!! this article fail to say unprotected or protected... lost credibility in my book
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Comment by: P (new york ,ny) Wed., May. 20, 2009 at 11:09 pm UTC
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Comment by: sexpoz (sydney) Wed., May. 20, 2009 at 9:46 pm UTC
This article fails to mention whether or not they had protected sex. If they did not then perhaps this could be considered grievous bodily harm, but even that would not justify the sentence. And wtf is this shite about are you clean? That terminology is so sickening, particularly since it stigmatizes those who take care to find out their status. I think far more harm is being done by persons who are not aware of their status and the research shows that most HIV positive people do not want anyone else to become infected.
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