AIDS/HIV | Crime | Health | Iowa | Law - Gay, LGBT | Law Enforcement

Nick Rhoades: Imprisoned For Months, Punished For Life, For Failure To Disclose

This link will bring you to one of the saddest stories you'll read this month. It's the story of an Iowan named Nick Rhoades; a person with HIV who has always strictly adhered to his medication regimen. In the summer of 2008, his viral load was so puny as to be undetectable.

RhoadesOne evening in June of that year, Rhoades hooked up with a man named Adam Plendl. He used a condom, but declined to disclose his status until afterwards. When Rhoades did disclose, Plendl panicked. From CNN:

Plendl, 22 at the time, says his life was forever changed ... and that he was severely depressed and suffered panic attacks while waiting to find out if he was infected.

"It was 181 days of pure fear, that six-month window when you don't know," he says.

"Individuals that are HIV positive have a moral and currently legal obligation to inform any of their sexual partners of their positive status. Individuals should have the choice as to whether or not they would engage with someone who is HIV positive when they are not. In this case, that choice -- and what I also consider a right -- was not afforded to me."

Plendl called the police. Three months after the June hookup, Rhoades was arrested, and charged with "criminal transmission of HIV" -- even though medical tests then and later showed that there was no transmission of HIV, and Plendl remains negative. Rhoades's attorney advised him to plead guilty to the charge, which he did. His bail was set at a quarter million dollars, and Rhoades couldn't pay that. He spent nine months in jail, much of it in solitary confinement, before being sentenced to 25 years in prison. That sentence was subsequently commuted to time served, five years of probation, and life on the sex offender registry. Says Rhoades:

My life is forever changed. Do a Google search for my name and some pretty horrific stuff comes up. I have had to change a private medical condition and a private life to public domain.

That's not to say I can't be happy, find employment, have a satisfying life, but it's never going to just go away.

Read all about it here.

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  1. well with FDA approved OraSure coming out in october....anyone post october who doesn't have whoever test themselves right in front of them with at least 2 tests ...wait 30 minutes and then have sex ....well, post october of this year no one will ever have an excuse of not knowing if their sexual partner is positive or negative (except for the up to 6 month incubation period issue)

    Posted by: say what | Aug 5, 2012 5:51:27 PM

  2. You should treat every sexual encounter with the assumption that the partner could be HIV positive and practice safe sex. I would never take anyone's word that they are HIV negative. If you are always safe it isn't really as much of an issue.

    Posted by: acevedo | Aug 5, 2012 5:56:15 PM

  3. As someone who does not have HIV all I can say is if you catch HIV it's YOUR own fault, no one else. The only way I could see anyone else being in any way partially responsible is when you ask and they lie to you and say 'no'. Even then, you must assume the person you're hooking up with has it.

    The only thing I can suggest is if you're that worried about catching it then put a rubber on it or stop f*cking altogether.

    Posted by: Michael | Aug 5, 2012 5:56:24 PM

  4. "This is insane" is the right response. Ernie and Persa have it exactly right.

    He should not be in prison.
    He should not be on a sex offender list.
    And nobody should be arguing in favor of the paranoid guy who probably should be having no sex at all.

    By the way, being a "known homosexual," especially via a sting operation, used to get you on that sex offender list, too.

    His record should be expunged.
    The whole story is outrageous, but then there are lots of outrageous things about our current criminal justice system.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Aug 5, 2012 5:58:57 PM

  5. Can't Rhoades sue for false imprisonment!?

    "Rhoades was arrested, and charged with "criminal transmission of HIV"


    I'm HIV negative and I too would have preferred to have known prior to having sex but come on, this is ridiculous. Rhoades wore a condom for Christ’s sake and there was NO transmission.

    Posted by: Billy | Aug 5, 2012 6:01:10 PM

  6. @Tom You're statement blatantly shows how ignorant you are about HIV and transmission; in fact is it embarrassing that your ignorance still exists in this day and age. Bottom-line, go educate yourself.

    Disclosure goes both ways yet the stigma falls on the one with HIV. The harshness of the Iowa laws need to be challenged and the plaintiff's record needs to be expunged from his record; because if the current process continues he will have a hard time getting a job once out of jail.

    Situations like this should not continue to create the continued fear that surrounds HIV.

    Posted by: Craig | Aug 5, 2012 6:03:28 PM

  7. This person deserved jailtime. How dare you put another's life at risk, knowing what you know about your medical health, because you want to get your rocks off. Completely would have done what Plendl did. Definitely would gave called the police and pushed for jailtime.

    Absolutely audacious that somebody would put someone through that kind of scare.

    Posted by: rob | Aug 5, 2012 6:09:06 PM

  8. Do these laws discourage testing?

    Posted by: Mike B. | Aug 5, 2012 6:13:18 PM

  9. I can't believe the people going all "If you're legally obligated to disclose your status, people will either not get tested or lie", as if it's A-OK not to disclose your status as long as it's not illegal to do so.

    Why? Because you want sex? Why is it OK for someone to GAMBLE with someone else's life and health just because they want sex? You find yourself shunned by those without HIV/AIDS? Then go date people with HIV/AIDS.

    Also, it the burden shouldn't be on the un-infected party. A gay man shouldn't have to be expected to ask every single date/hook-up of their AIDS/HIV status. The burden lies on the infected party.

    Personally, I don't walk around asking all potential sexual partners whether or not they are HIV+. And I shouldn't have to. Why should we be expected to live in a world where gay guys are constantly forced to ask each other whether or not they're HIV+? It's much easier, less time consuming and more LOGICAL for the HIV+ among us to have to disclose their status. Maybe not upon introduction, but definitely prior to sexual contact is made.

    Life isn't fair. You have AIDS/HIV and find that people are less inclined to sleep with you now? TOUGH.

    Nick Rhoades is guilty of RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT, clear and simple. There are countries and states with clear laws on this. If you have HIV/AIDS, you are LEGALLY REQUIRED to disclose your status to potential sexual partners BEFORE sex. Even in places where no such laws exist, you have a MORAL obligation to disclose your status.

    Not disclosing your status because you're afraid the guy won't sleep with you is SELFISH and DISRESPECTFUL.

    So, you think someone's "right" to sex trumps someone's right to not endanger their life and health? Condoms are not foolproof.

    Posted by: Philip Wester | Aug 5, 2012 6:16:05 PM

  10. Every gay man when hooking up should do the following:

    1. Leave the names, address and phone number of the person you are hooking up with with a close friend even if you just email it to yourself

    2. Ask if the person has an STD: herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV+, etc.

    Too many gay men are comfortable with the fact that they are gay but have MANY LAYERS of self-doubt, self-confidence and other issues when it comes to having sex. These things have to be dealt with as well as breaking down the closet door and announcing that I AM GAY...because this is only the first step.

    Also a personal note: stop watching so much damn porn!!

    Helpful things to do in your spare time:

    1. learn another language

    2. volunteer at a school or retirement home

    3. figure out as much as you can "who" you are in this moment and "who" do you want to be!!

    I am sick and tired of gay men thinking that their self awareness ends with the fact that they are comfortable enough to say: I AM GAY.

    Posted by: TrueWords | Aug 5, 2012 6:17:06 PM

  11. Remember, people, Rhoades chose not to disclose his status 'til AFTER sex. So he likely knew or suspected that disclosure prior to sex would've resulted in him not getting to have sex, yet he also felt it important enough to tell his partner afterwards, JUST IN he'd accidentally infected him!

    This was a SELFISH man looking for SELFISH sexual gratification at the potential cost of another human being's health and life. He wanted sex. He suspected/knew he wouldn't get it if he told his partner, so he didn't. But he felt like his partner HAD A RIGHT TO KNOW, in case something went wrong, which is why he actually TOLD his partner... but only afterwards.

    Clear-cut case here, people.

    The punishment was far too severe, but he DESERVES to be punished (but not nearly as harshly as he's been punished).

    Posted by: Philip Wester | Aug 5, 2012 6:19:42 PM

  12. By the way, for the people who seem to think that Rhoades got 25 years + 5 years probation, that's not what happened. He got 25 years. After spending a total of 9 months in jail (most of that awaiting sentencing), HIS SENTENCE WAS COMMUTED to 5 years probation.

    So, in the end, he got 9 months in jail, 5 years probation and entry into the sex offender registry. Out of that, I feel that the entry in the registry was too severe. The rest fits the crime, though.

    He had NO RIGHT to do what he did and I suspect he knew it too. After all, why would he disclose his status after the deed unless he felt like his partner had a right to know and that he had the obligation to tell him?

    Posted by: Philip Wester | Aug 5, 2012 6:22:05 PM

  13. So it's "reckless endangerment" to have sex with someone when your viral load is undetectable and you're using a condom?

    Jesus some people are paranoid.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Aug 5, 2012 6:27:15 PM

  14. "A gay man shouldn't have to be expected to ask every single date/hook-up of their AIDS/HIV status. The burden lies on the infected party."

    @Philip: Yes, a gay man should be expected to ask, if he is not willing to accept the risk of having PROTECTED sex with a stranger. The burden should not lie just with "the infected party," it should lie with both parties, and both parties failed to communicate here. Some people don't even know their status. Neither negative nor positive people should make presumptions about the status of their partners. And if you're to presume a stranger's status, presume positive and assess your risk from there.

    You obviously feel passionately about this but, no, it is not a "clear-cut case here." The truth is there was no transmission and there was no reason for Plendl to have experienced "181 days of pure fear" given the precautions that were taken. In a tidy world, Rhoades would have disclosed and Plendl would not have engaged in sex that was outside his risk comfort zone, but human sexuality is rarely tidy. This never should have been a criminal case.

    Posted by: Ernie | Aug 5, 2012 6:42:19 PM

  15. I always have used condoms for anal sexl I've never trusted any man who told me he was negative. Men are men--they are prone to lie to get into your pants. And it's been 20 years since I first got laid, and I am still negative.

    After two close calls with broken condoms about seven years ago, I just decided to give up on anal sex.

    Irony: when I was 20, I thought having anal sex was liberating. Now I find that giving up anal sex is liberating.

    Posted by: bravo | Aug 5, 2012 6:48:38 PM

  16. Philip -- regardless of the fact that his time in jail was commuted, he has a 25 year conviction on his permanent record. That's the kiss of death in terms of being able to find a decent job.

    He's also now listed as a sexual predator, being lumped in with rapists and child molestors. That's an even bigger kiss of death to find a job, and even a place to live.

    He'll have to go to every neighbor within a wide radius and inform them he -- a sexual predator -- is moving nearby. Do you think they'll care about the story of why?

    He'll also be banned from living near many public places, because he's on that list, when he's clearly no threat to the general public.

    These are all absurdities, not only ruining his own life, but by making it impossible for him to live a decent life, it forces everyone to pony up to pay for the public assistance he'll now need, like medicaid, etc.

    He made a mistake -- a big one -- and 9 months in prison, "much of it in solitary confinement" is surely enough punishment for what he did.

    Posted by: Ryan | Aug 5, 2012 6:50:24 PM

  17. HIV does NOT cause AIDS. Jailing someone for being HIV positive while having sex is completely pointless.

    Posted by: jason | Aug 5, 2012 6:53:57 PM

  18. The whole stupid thinking of many people is astonishing. People who usually infect others DO NOT KNOW their status, THEREFORE, do NOT take medication –having high virus content in their blood, being more contagious- so counting in "an answer" to make a decision is utterly stupid.
    You should ALWAYS have protected sex, which is the only “answer”, the people who “trust in someone's word or ignorance” are the perfect candidates to be infected.
    So in consequence, you would be much less at risk with someone whose bloodstream is flooded with medication –and thus undetectable virus in their fluids- that with someone who doesn't know or who think that his “aura or good luck” is protection enough.
    That jailed guy is a scapegoat of fear and ignorance supported by an outdated legislation, he didn't try to infect that hypochondriac stupid guy –who obviously didn't got infected- and his only mistake was not being informed about the related social issues and the legal implications of living under the “sharia Christian laws”.
    The funnier thing is that most of the idiots claiming “I want to know beforehand” have ALREADY risked their lives having sex with people who don't know their status, while cultivating fearful thought based on those who don't represent a real risk because not only take medication, but use protection.
    But I guess America's medieval religious thought has impaired many people of clear thought and knowledge.

    Posted by: YoYeahYo | Aug 5, 2012 7:00:05 PM

  19. HIV does not cause AIDS. This idea that HIV causes AIDS was put out by scientists with links to pharmaceutical companies. It's a con designed to make money and create an industry that generates money.

    Posted by: jason | Aug 5, 2012 7:08:27 PM

  20. I think Plendl should be required to inform all future sex partners that he has pressed charges against this man, so that they too can be made aware of the legal risk they are taking by having sex with him. And if everyone who has transmitted HIV to someone else is going to have to register as a sex offender, the list will become incredibly long. Forget about medical confidentiality.

    Posted by: David | Aug 5, 2012 7:14:55 PM

  21. Since, oh, say, 1985, if you're having sex with hookups, and you're not protecting yourself, regardless of what the guy does or does not say about his HIV status, then you're a fool. OK, Adam? You're a fool.

    Posted by: evan | Aug 5, 2012 7:32:15 PM

  22. This is why a 34 year old should avoid hooking up with a 22 year old in the first place. They don't have the emotional fortitude to handle certain situations like the one above, aside from the misplaced shame and guilt that might set in after the act itself that someone at that age could still experience.

    I like some of the comments stating you should assume EVERYONE that you engage in sexual activity with is HIV positive. Why wouldn't you take precaution like this if it's a quick hook-up with someone who doesn't care whether you live or die quite frankly?

    Maybe I'm a foolish prude, but is it really necessary to engage in such risky behavior like having penetrative anal sex the first night you meet anyway? Has everything become so casual to us that nothing has any value or meaning anymore? This is a small reason why right-wing groups have ammunition against us as a culture when we ask for equal treatment, our poor decision making skills when it comes to impulsive sexual activity.

    Posted by: Richard | Aug 5, 2012 7:32:26 PM

  23. Wow this story angers me!!! The sentence angers me even more - how could the judge be so homophobic! Knowingly transmitted HIV??? He wore a condom - if he didn't wear one, he would have knowingly transmitted HIV. He was being safe - all the safe-sex campaigns just went down the drain because of one stupid judge that didn't even understand what a sex offender was when this poor man was already charged with transmitting HIV.

    Sometimes us human are so short-sighted and irrational. This poor man, for NOT infecting another man with HIV is being sentenced to jail, yet the Dark-Knight shooter is pleading for insanity. Are we not the ones who are insane?

    The law is really flawed. Adam contributed to himself being traumatized as he didn't ask - he assumed the position and the risk. Now that he regretted having sex he sued the other person? Geez, I could have had many trials also.

    If this is a precedent, I hope that every HIV positive rapist will get the same treatment as this poor man.

    Posted by: Alfred | Aug 5, 2012 7:36:36 PM

  24. Plendl is an unadulterated schmuck and professional drama queen. I hope he gets some other life threatening illness and dies. I wonder who he'll blame then. Piece of dirt.

    Posted by: jonathan | Aug 5, 2012 7:37:17 PM

  25. The sentence is ridiculously harsh but HIV criminalisation laws are sensible. If you are carrying a deadly infection, you should be legally required to tell the person you are about to sleep with that you have it, so they can make an informed choice.

    Posted by: Freddie | Aug 5, 2012 7:52:41 PM

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