In an effort to curb the transmission of debilitating sexual disorders such as HIV, several states have enacted strict laws which criminalize the exposure of the disease to other individuals. According to Newser, some states have laws banning “spitting scratching, or biting, despite how unlikely transmission is in those cases.” Unprotected sex by individuals that are HIV positive is currently criminalized in 35 states, as this is the largest cause of the disease’s transmission. Now, however, even safe sex might be considered a crime.
In a new article published concurrently by ProPublica and Buzzfeed, journalist Sergio Hernandez points to the peculiar case of Iowa resident Nick Rhoades, who faced 25 years in prison for “having sex without first disclosing he had HIV.”
The case is unusual because the 39-year-old Rhoades used a condom during his sexual activity with 22-year-old Adam Plendl, who did not contract the virus as a result of the encounter. Rhoades had also been taking antiviral drugs.
The severe charges against Rhoades were eventually changed to five years’ probation, but Rhoades must remain registered as a sex offender for the remainder of his life. The article cites several other cases that have resulted in similar harsh consequences for relatively innocent individuals that happen to have HIV.
This type of discrimination against HIV-positive individuals, and sexually-active homosexual individuals in general, has been occurring for decades. The intention — to curb the spread of HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases — is good. The effects on the personal lives of individuals such as Rhoades, however, can be more than unfortunate.
It’s well known that homosexual individuals are banned from donating blood due to a perceived increased risk in the transmission of sexual diseases such as HIV. This law has sparked controversy, as the majority of homosexual individuals likely would not test positive for sexually-transmitted diseases. These individuals are being prevented from helping others by simply donating blood. However, any efforts to reduce the spread of such diseases cannot necessarily be regarded with complete disdain.
Still, laws such as Iowa’s “criminal transmission of HIV” exist in legal gray areas that need to be more clearly defined so that safe sexual practices can be carried out at t but individuals can live normally without fear of unnecessary repercussions.