HRC Blog

With Rhoades Review, Iowa Supreme Court Has Opportunity to Undo an Injustice

Post submitted by Bryce Romero, Consumer Marketing Coordinator

On Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court took up a case challenging the state’s discriminatory HIV criminalization laws.

By agreeing to review the 2009 arrest and conviction of Nick Rhoades, the Iowa Supreme Court has the opportunity to end legalized discrimination against HIV-positive Americans. 

Upon advice of his attorneys, Rhoades pled guilty to the “criminal transmission of HIV,” a class B felony in that state, for consensual sexual activity that posed little or no risk of transmission to his partner.  He was sentenced to 25 years in prison and a lifetime as a registered sex offender.  His sentence was subsequently reduced to five years of probation.  Now represented by attorneys from Lambda Legal, Rhoades contends that his actions did not violate the state's criminalized transmission laws because there was no risk of HIV transmission. 

In December, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., introduced the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act, a bill that would encourage 32 states, including Iowa, to end government-sanctioned discrimination against HIV-positive individuals and to improve public health by removing laws that discourage individuals from knowing their HIV status. Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., introduced a similar bipartisan bill in the House. 

For Rhoades, who can no longer visit his parents in a neighboring county or use Facebook or Twitter (registered sex offenders are banned from social media), the Iowa Supreme Court has given him and the 1.1 million HIV-positive Americans across this country hope--hope that we, too, won’t be trapped by a web of outdated HIV criminalization laws. 

It is my hope that the Iowa Supreme Court will undo an injustice and help to put an end to HIV stigma.

Learn more about HRC’s work on HIV/AIDS.

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