AHF Praises Iowa Supreme Court for Overturning Wrongful HIV Conviction
As the Iowa state legislature actively amends and updates laws to reduce discriminatory criminal convictions of people living with HIV, wrongly convicted Iowan Nick Rhoades receives justice with Supreme Court’s decision to set aside his conviction – Rhoades faced 25 years in prison following a one-time safe sexual encounter that did not result in transmission of the virus
DES MOINES, Iowa--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The largest provider of HIV/AIDS care in the U.S., AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), today praised the Iowa Supreme Court for justly setting aside a discriminatory conviction of a man living with HIV. The decision that came down today marks a growing recognition from Iowa courts that HIV-positive individuals who have a reduced viral load as a result of effective treatment pose little risk of transmitting HIV. The ruling follows the first change in state health code regarding HIV transmission in nearly a decade, which came when Iowa Governor Terry E. Branstad signed a landmark bill on May 30 that redefines state law to ensure only those who intend to spread HIV or behave with “reckless disregard” are penalized through the criminal justice system.
“It is heartening to see the Iowa Supreme Court cutting through the inflammatory hyperbole that caused Mr. Rhoades to face such discriminatory persecution where he should have received due process”
“It is heartening to see the Iowa Supreme Court cutting through the inflammatory hyperbole that caused Mr. Rhoades to face such discriminatory persecution where he should have received due process,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AHF. “The court’s decision infuses common sense and the upholding of human rights into a case where a man was targeted simply because of his HIV status with disregard for the responsibility he takes in managing his condition.”
Rhoades was initially sentenced to 25 years in prison, with required registration as a sex offender, after having a one-time sexual encounter with another man in June 2008 during which they used a condom. Several days after the encounter, a friend told the man who had had sex with Rhoades that Rhoades might be HIV-positive. The police arrested Rhoades in September 2008, and on the advice of his counsel, he pled guilty. Despite the fact that a condom was used and the other man did not contract HIV, Rhoades was convicted under Iowa’s now-amended HIV criminalization law. He received the maximum sentence: 25 years in prison and classification as the most serious type of sex offender. Rhoades spent more than five years appealing the wrongful conviction before finally receiving justice with today’s decision.
“We applaud the Court for applying the law in light of current medical understanding of how HIV is and is not transmitted,” said Christopher Clark, Counsel for Lambda Legal, the firm representing Rhoades. “An individual who takes precautions to prevent transmission should not be considered a criminal for choosing to be sexually active, and we are very pleased that the Court agrees.”
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare provider in the USA. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to over 312,000 individuals in 34 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and Asia. For more information, visit www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter: @AIDSHealthcare