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HIV case brings 25-year sentence for
Having Sex with Man Without Disclosing HIV Status
  By MARY STEGMEIR, Courier Staff Writer,


WATERLOO, Iowa --- It's fairly common for people infected with HIV to hide their status, medical experts testified Friday at the sentencing of a Plainfield man charged with knowingly transmitting the disease.

But that doesn't make it right, Judge Bradley Harris said after sentencing Nick Clayton Rhoades to 25 years in prison, the maximum punishment for the class B felony.

"Simply because it happens regularly that people don't disclose, doesn't mean it's safe," Harris said. Despite improved treatments, he told Rhoades, contracting human immunodeficiency virus "does change your life, and you more than anyone else should know that."

Rhoades, 34, pleaded guilty to failing to disclose his HIV status prior to having sex with a Cedar Falls man June 26. The two men exchanged messages in an Internet chat room before meeting at the victim's home. Although the contact was consensual, the victim, who has since tested negative for HIV, said Rhoades denied he had any sexually transmitted infections. The charge against Rhoades stands because he failed to disclose his HIV status prior to having sex with the man.

"I should have had the right to choose whether to be intimate with someone who was HIV positive," the victim read in statement to the court. "Instead, Nick was manipulative and denied me that right. ? He lied online, and he also lied to me in person when I asked him directly if he was 'clean.'"

Rhoades said he doesn't remember discussing his HIV status with the victim. He drank heavily and took prescription pills before having sex, a combination that he said clouded his judgment. In addition to HIV, the defendant also was being treated for herpes and genital human papillomavirus at the time of the incident, said assistant county attorney Linda Fangman.

Rhoades, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1998, was arrested in September. Living with the virus is like "carrying a concealed weapon," he told the court, saying he felt guilty for exposing an unknowing individual to the disease.

"I always wanted to be part of the solution, and not part of the problem," said Rhoades, who had previously participated in AIDS education efforts. "Clearly, I've fallen short in this case."

In addition to prison time, Rhoades has a five-year no-contact order with the victim, will register as a sex offender and undergo a sex offender treatment program, will have lifetime parole and was ordered to pay court costs and restitution. Harris can adjust the sentence any time within the next 12 months.

"One thing that makes this case difficult is that you don't look dangerous; you don't look like most of our criminals that sit here," Harris said. "But the risk is still there, just like if you would have shot a gun."

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