Des Moines Register: Repeal Iowa's Outdated HIV Law

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July 31, 2012

The Des Moines Register's Andie Dominick profiles Nick Rhoades, the plaintiff in Lambda Legal's HIV criminalization case.

Rhoades was sentenced to 25 years in prison—and lifetime registration as a sex offender—after a one-time sexual encounter with another man, during which they used a condom.

Rhoades tells Dominick:

I could have committed vehicular homicide and gotten a lesser sentence.

I had consensual sex with a grown man, yet I cannot be around minors without supervision by their parents. And if it’s found out I was, their parents can be charged with felonies. I’m nervous about being around my nieces and nephews.

Lambda Legal Senior Staff Attorney Christopher Clark adds:

We do not think these laws make sense. Period. But they really don’t make sense when they are used to convict people who engage in safe sex with another person.

The Register has editorialized against Iowa's HIV criminalization law:

Though this state has relatively few people who are HIV-positive, Iowa ranks second in the nation, behind Tennessee, for prosecuting them under this law. Since the law went into effect, 25 Iowans have been charged and 15 convicted.


Iowa is marginalizing, stigmatizing and publicly identifying people struggling with an illness. Taxpayers are currently paying for eight people to reside in prison.

This law is wrong, and it is an embarrassment to this state.

The Register editorial is backed up by two op-ed columns. Former Polk County prosecutor Dan Johnston writes:

Prosecutors must be not only prosecutors of crime. They must prevent the prosecution of the innocent.

And Randy Mayer, a bureau chief at the Iowa Department of Public Health, writes:

Iowa has one of the harshest laws in the nation. We treat no other infectious disease in this way.

Read more about the case here.