Iowa court rules condoms ‘not enough’ in prevention of sexually transmitted infections

Richard Martinez

Iowa native Nick Rhoades was arrested back in 2009 for criminally exposing HIV to his partner whom he had sexual relations with. As Iowa law dictates, the ruling he was later faced with called for the maximum sentence of 25 years of imprisonment and registration as a sex offender for life.

Recently, Rhoades’ attorneys have disputed his conviction in the argument that he technically did not break the strict guidelines imposed by the Iowa Legislature: He did use a condom.

Consenting to sex is a concern in sexually active students for both health and legal reasons alike.

In Rhoades’ case, while he argued using a condom was enough to overturn his criminal charges, the judge decided the law does not focus whether the other partner obtained the virus. The reason that justified Rhoades’ sentence was his failure to inform his partner of his disease.

“Consent to any form of sexual activity is vital,” said Jake Swanson, president of the Student Health Advisory Committee at Iowa State. “Students may not be completely aware of the issue STIs may pose to their physical health, but there are plenty of programs offered through [Thielen Health Care Center] that help mitigate that problem on campus.

“It’s absolutely crucial to inform your partner of any problems between yourselves before engaging in sexual activity.”

On Sept. 11, Rhoades’ attorneys told the Iowa Court of Appeals he was wrongfully informed of the Iowa statute that outlines the consequences of sexual misconduct that pertained to him. After the deliberations, the court shortened his sentence to five years on probation.

“The difficulty I believe most partners face is feeling comfortable with each other to discuss that topic,” Swanson said. “It might seem awkward to some, but it could have pretty negative repercussions.”

The Student Health Advisory Committee serves to coordinate efforts alongside the Student Health Center to engage students in comprehensive programs to help reduce the risk of health risks in the community.

Additionally, the Student Health Care Center’s prevention services department implements various resources to students on campus to inform and aid partners in making educated decisions in their sexual relationships.

“Currently, the condom distribution program we have implemented is the only, yet most effective, resource we provide for this population,” said Lauri Dusselier, manager of the prevention services department. “Outside research has shown that programs like [condom distribution] are designed to be effective in reducing risk by providing accessibility to condoms to individuals as well as organizations on campus we distribute to upon request.”

While condom distribution alone presents a strong effort in reducing transmission of STIs, the department also offers supplementary online advisory programs in safe sex education that deter health risks on campus.

Sexual Misconduct Education is a program within the prevention services department featured online to students that aims to “educate students about the elements of healthy relationships and the importance of sexual consent,” according to its website.

For more information about the various programs prevention services offers to all ISU students, visit