Lambda Legal, a Chicago-based gay rights group, says it is appealing the conviction of Nick Rhoades, an HIV-positive Iowan who had a one-time sexual encounter in 2008 with another man during which they used a condom.
The group says it is asking the state’s highest court to review the case. The Iowa Court of Appeals ruled Oct. 2 that Rhoades had violated the HIV transmission law.
Rhoades, 39, had a sexual encounter with a man he met in an online chat room in 2008. Rhoades drove from his home in Waverly to the man’s home in Cedar Falls, where he received oral sex without wearing protection but put on a condom before having sex. Within days, the man learned from a friend that Rhoades had HIV and contacted police. He eventually tested negative for HIV, but he supported Rhoades’ prosecution.
Rhoades eventually pleaded guilty to criminally transmitting HIV, a class B felony. A judge sentenced him to the maximum 25 years in prison.
Advocates have seized on Rhoades’ prosecution as a particularly egregious example of how the laws can be overly harsh and based on outdated scientific understanding of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Lambda Legal says appeals court judges misinterpreted Iowa’s law because a person using a condom as Rhoades did does not have the intent required to support a conviction.