Letter to the editor: HIV is not a crime

Iowa resident Nick Rhoades was sentenced by a Black Hawk County court to 25 years in prison for “criminal transmission of HIV” even though he used a condom, had an undetectable viral load and did not transmit HIV. He is now on the Iowa sex offenders list. Nick would have had a better chance of winning the Powerball lottery than transmitting HIV. This outdated law should be repealed.

Iowa’s HIV criminal transmission law has become a concern to public health officials, medical and legal professionals, persons living with HIV/AIDS, and their advocates. HIV criminalization does not reduce HIV transmission, and it discourages those at risk from getting tested for HIV or seeking treatment for the condition. “Take the test and risk arrest” is hurting Iowans of all ages not getting tested and treated.

Rhoades will join a panel of experts, including Randy Mayer, chief of the Bureau of HIV, STD and Hepatitis; Iowa Department of Public Health; Tami Haught, from Community HIV/Hepatitis Advocates of Iowa Network; and Iowa City native Sean Strub, an AIDS activist who founded POZ Magazine and now leads the SERO Project, at a community forum at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 8 at the Ames Public Library auditorium. A new short film by Strub called “HIV is Not a Crime,” which features Rhoades, will be shown.

The panelists will discuss modernization and repeal of Iowa’s statute to reflect contemporary knowledge of the real routes and risks of HIV transmission. Haught is a long-term HIV survivor and is heading up a statewide campaign to modernize the Iowa statute. According to Haught: “It’s bad public health policy. We need people to know their HIV status. This law punishes those who take the responsible step and learn their status while privileging ignorance, which is what drives the epidemic.”

Please join us Aug. 8 for a Community Forum at the Ames Public Library auditorium. It will begin at 6:30 p.m. and is open to the public at no charge.