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The Source: Sexually Active And HIV Positive

NIAID / http://bit.ly/1oL0JnZ
HIV-infected H9 T cell.

An Iowa man who was sentenced to 25 years for not disclosing to a sexual partner his HIV-positive status had his sentence vacated last week.  

Nick Rhoades, who was 26 years old at the time, used a condom, was actively taking anti-viral drugs, and didn't transmit the disease to anyone, but the crime of criminal transmission of HIV in Iowa and many other states doesn't require you actually transmit.

A Propublica investigation late last year highlighted Rhoades' case and showed that 541 people in 19 states had been convicted of similar crimes. Further, it found that 35 states make this a crime and 29 list it as a felony. None of the laws require transmission to occur for it to be a crime, with people going to jail for things that could not transmit the disease like spitting and scratching.

In Texas these cases are pursued under aggravated assault charges. A high-profile case is going on right now in Dallas. Prosecutors are attempting to get a 95-year sentence against Matthew Reese for infecting a 15-year-old girl.

While these laws are popular with the public, regardless of HIV status, health experts argue they won't do anything to curtail infection rates and may do more harm as far as stigmatizing infected individuals.


  • Sergio Hernandez, formerly an investigative reporter with Propublica, now editor at "The Week" magazine.

*This is the first segment in the June 19 edition of The Source, which airs at 3 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM. 

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive