In 2009 when Nick Rhoades was convicted of the criminal transmission of HIV and sentenced to 25 years in prison and lifetime listing as a sex offender, the news upended his life. He attempted suicide and had a breakdown that landed him in the University of Iowa Hospital's psychiatric ward for weeks. He spent what he describes as nine "hellish months" in jail and four in prison before his was granted relief from his sentence.
Now that Iowa has become the first of 36 US states to amend its HIV transmission statute, Nick says he’s feeling hopeful for the first time in a long time. “I think this is going to be a ripple effect. Iowa is now a droplet in a very still pond. I hope that other states can say Iowa did, we can do it too.”
Nick was convicted of the transmission of HIV even though he did not transmit the virus or intend to do so. Many advocates who want HIV transmission laws amended point to his case as an example of how the laws can be misused. This hour on River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Rhoades about his case, his conviction and what comes next. Under Iowa’s amended law, he’ll still be a convicted felon but will be removed from his listing as sex offender.
Then, Kieffer talks with Dr. Jeffrey Meier of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Dr. Meier started treating patients who were HIV positive in the mid 1980’s. He says that from a public health standpoint, Iowa's amendment to its HIV transmission law is a step in the right direction. He tells us about what it was like to be treating HIV positive patients in the early days of the epidemic and how far we've come in our understanding of the disease.