Main | Thursday, May 01, 2014

Iowa Reforms HIV Criminalization Law

Yesterday the Iowa House approved a bill that reforms draconian HIV transmission laws. The bill was approved by the state Senate in February. Current Iowa law makes it a felony to expose someone to HIV without their knowledge whether or not transmission takes place or if condoms had been used.
The Iowa Legislature has sent to the governor a measure lessening the penalties for people who unknowingly expose someone to HIV with no intention of infecting them. The House in the early morning hours Thursday passed a version of the bill the Senate had approved in February. The Legislature worked overtime to adjourn for the year passing the bill at around 2 a.m. The bill changes a current law that says if someone exposes a partner to HIV without their consent, they can be convicted of a felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison. It creates more general rules about infectious diseases, making people eligible for 25 year sentences only if they intend to transmit a disease without someone’s knowledge.
One Iowa reacts via press release:
"After 5 long years of fighting to change Iowa's law, those of us living in Iowa with HIV and AIDS can finally breathe a sigh of relief," said Tami Haught, Community Organizer with CHAIN. "We commend the leadership in the Senate and the House for understanding the importance of this bill and the need to modernize Iowa's draconian 709c law. None of this would be possible without the bipartisan support of Senators Matt McCoy, Steve Sodders, Charles Schneider and Rob Hogg; in addition to Representatives Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, Chris Hagenow and Chip Baltimore. The changes in this new bill are a step in the right direction. "While the bill that passed today will have a lasting and positive effect on the lives of many Iowans who currently live with HIV and AIDS in our state, our work is far from over," Haught added. "We must continue our outreach and education within the public sphere about the realties of those living with HIV, to dispel the harmful stereotypes, stigma and misinformation often associated with the disease. Our hope is that by beginning to modernize the laws in Iowa, it will signal other states with similar legislation to do the same. HIV is not a crime; our laws here in Iowa and across the country need to reflect this fact."
RELATED: In October 2013 the Iowa Court Of Appeals 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. The other man, 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.

UPDATE: Lambda Legal writes to advise us that the Iowa Supreme Court heard a second appeal of Rhoades' case in March 2014. A ruling is expected very soon.

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