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Officially, the charge, buried in Chapter 709 of the Iowa code, is “criminal transmission of HIV.” But no transmission had occurred.
The man Rhoades had sex with, 22-year-old Adam Plendl, had not contracted the virus.
“Shifting the burden of HIV disclosure from the infected person, who is aware of a known danger, to one who is completely unaware of their partner’s condition smacks of a ‘blame the victim’ sort of mentality,” Jerry Vander Sanden, a prosecutor in Linn County, Iowa, wrote in an email to Pro Publica.
“It would be like telling a rape victim that they should have been more careful.” Even many people with HIV support the laws.
That’s not a surprise, because Rhoades used a condom.
And medical records show he was taking antiviral drugs that suppressed his HIV, making transmission extremely unlikely.
“There’s no reason why we should be singling out HIV for this kind of treatment,” he said. Department of Justice has opened at least 49 investigations into alleged HIV discrimination.
“One thing that makes this case difficult is you don’t look like our usual criminals,” Harris said. But you created a situation that was just as dangerous as anyone who did that.” The judge meted out Rhoades’ sentence: 25 years in prison.
“Often times for the court it is easy to tell when someone is dangerous. His crime: having sex without first disclosing he had HIV.
“It’s based in just a lot of fear and misconception.” Being HIV-positive can still carry a powerful stigma. The department has won settlements from state prisons, medical clinics, schools, funeral homes, insurance companies, day care centers and even alcohol rehab centers for discriminating against HIV-positive people.
Individuals with HIV may also fear that news of their status will spread to third parties, leading to rejection, embarrassment or ostracism for themselves or even their loved ones.