On February 27th the Iowa State Senate unanimously voted to dramatically soften Iowa’s HIV transmission law.
Currently, in the state of Iowa an HIV positive person who does not disclose their HIV status to partners can be imprisoned for 25 years and have their name added to the nation’s sex offender registry. This sentence would stand even if all practices of safe sex were followed and no HIV transmission.
Two people have been punished for non-disclosure in recent years. Nick Rhoades is among at least 15 people prosecuted under an Iowa law that essentially classifies people with HIV as carrying a deadly weapon. The other case pertains to Leslie Flaggs. Flaggs and Rhoades both pleaded guilty, despite the fact that neither of their partners contracted HIV.
Three dozen U.S. states and territories have laws criminalizing HIV in one form or another, according to the SERO Project. The Center for HIV Law & Policy offers an online tool explaining the laws in all 50 states.
Not only did Rhoades use a condom, but he had an undetectable viral load. Modern antiretroviral therapy (ART) prevents the HIV virus from replicating. It often suppresses the virus to levels deemed undetectable.
Iowa's law, like many others around the U.S., is based on what the scientific community knew about HIV in the 1990s. At the time, the disease was still thought to be a death sentence and there was little research into its long-term effects.
Donna Red Wing, executive director of the gay advocacy group One Iowa, told Healthline that the state has a chance to help stop the transmission of HIV in Iowa with the senate's version of the amended HIV transmission law. “We have a great opportunity to do something pretty nifty, something that can have bipartisan support," she said. "And it doesn't have to be about anything but science.”
This move has been applauded by HIV/AIDS advocates. Living with HIV is not a crime and should not be looked upon as criminal.