For HIV-Positive People, Sex Carries The Risk Of Imprisonment, Sex Offender Charges

While making his documentary about the media hysteria and unjust penalties behind HIV criminalization, Sean Strub, the founder of Poz Magazine, spoke with Nick Rhoades. Rhoades had an detectable viral load, used a condom and did not transmit HIV to his partner. But because he didn’t disclose his status, a court sentenced him to 25 years for assault just because he had sex while HIV+.

Rhoades had to register as a sex offender every three months (child molesters have to register every six months). He couldn’t be around minors without their parents and had to wear a GPS ankle bracelet for 24 hour monitoring every day. He could not have any alcohol in the house, had to be home by midnight and couldn’t watch pornography. The police could search his computer whenever they liked and made him take psychological and phallometric tests where they gauged his reactions to different types of porn by putting a girth-measuring band around his penis.

Right now, 34 states and two U.S. territories currently have varying statutes that can penalize HIV+ people for potentially exposing others to the disease. In Rhoades’ home state of Iowa, an HIV+ person can get charged with assault and attempted murder for having consensual sex. In Michigan, an HIV+ man who bit someone in self-defense got charged with bioterrorism. And in Texas, an HIV+ man got 35 years in prison for spitting at a police officer.

In September U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced the Repeal HIV Discrimination Act, a bill that could end HIV criminalization nationwide. Until then the justice system at large and the American media consider the millions of Americans with HIV as criminals just waiting to attack.