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In a recent survey of HIV-positive people in New Jersey, 90 percent said that people with the virus bore most of the responsibility to protect their partners.More than half approved of the kind of laws that resulted in Rhoades’ sentence.Lab results and a bottle of pills found in the Rhoades’ refrigerator confirmed the detectives’ suspicions: Nick Rhoades was HIV-positive.Almost a year later, in a Black Hawk County courtroom, Judge Bradley Harris peered down at Rhoades from his bench.The national tally is surely higher, because at least 35 states have laws that specifically criminalize exposing another person to HIV. In 60 cases for which extensive documentation could be obtained, Pro Publica found just four involving complainants who actually became infected with HIV.
According to the CDC, 1.1 million Americans are currently living with HIV, but one-fifth of them don’t know it.
Officially, the charge, buried in Chapter 709 of the Iowa code, is “criminal transmission of HIV.” But no transmission had occurred.
The man Rhoades had sex with, 22-year-old Adam Plendl, had not contracted the virus.
Vreeland works as the communications coordinator for the Sero Project, a nonprofit advocacy group that campaigns against HIV exposure laws, which it denounces as “HIV criminalization.” In 2006, Vreeland started dating a classmate at Bard College in upstate New York. “What’s going through your head is being scared of being rejected,” he said.
“It’s scary to give someone that power.” Vreeland and his girlfriend continued to date.