Petition Closed
Petitioning Community HIV/Hepatitis Advocates of Iowa Network

Support CHAIN's efforts to repeal Iowa's HIV specific criminalization law

Because,           Iowa, like most states, has a law that prohibits intentional transmission of communicable diseases.  This statute, Iowa Code 139A.20 is part of public health code.  Under Iowa Code 139A.20 and 139A.25, the knowing exposure to a communicable disease with the intent of transmitting that disease is punishable as a simple misdemeanor.  However, Iowa Code 709C singles out the transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus as a separate criminal offense, classified as a class “B” felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

Because, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors has called for review of HIV criminalization statutes to bring them in line with contemporary science and knowledge about the real routes, risks, and consequences of HIV transmission, the Iowa Department of Public Health has echoed the call for review of the statute; and

Because, Iowa Code 709C undermines public health goals by discouraging testing, treatment, and counseling,  stigmatizes people with HIV and it wastes taxpayer dollars; and

Because, Repealing Iowa Code 709C means that intentional transmission of HIV will still be punishable under Iowa Code 139A.20, the same public health code that governs every other communicable disease.

 I/My Organization Supports:

· Repealing Iowa HIV Code 709C because HIV is already encompassed in Code 139A.



Letter to
Community HIV/Hepatitis Advocates of Iowa Network
Support CHAIN's efforts to repeal Iowa's HIV specific criminalization law

Iowa Code 709C summary: A person commits criminal transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus if the person, knowing that his or her HIV status is positive, engages in intimate contact with another person. Exposing someone to HIV, whether or not the virus is transmitted, is a class "B" felony with up to 25 years in prison.

Iowa Code 709C Undermines Public Health Goals and Costs Tax Payers Money
A person who intentionally infects someone with a serious infectious disease—not exclusively HIV—should be punished to the full extent of the law.
1. Many states do not have HIV-specific statutes and yet this has not prevented the prosecution of persons who recklessly infect others with serious diseases.
2. There is already a public health statute, Iowa Code 139A.20, that prohibits exposing another person to any communicable disease with the intent to transmit it. This statute already includes HIV. Singling HIV out in 709C stigmatizes this disease needlessly.

Tax payers shouldn’t have to pay $1.38 million for each 25-year sentence of people who did not transmit HIV.
1. Of the 34 states that have HIV-specific exposure laws, Iowa has the most stringent, and costly, of penalties. Furthermore, HIV transmission rarely occurred in these cases.
2. As a Class B Felony, twenty-five years in prison and sex offender registration for life far exceed the penalties of most other states, and it even exceeds Iowa’s punishment for most other crimes, including manslaughter and assault.
3. To date, 36 persons have been charged with criminal transmission of HIV in Iowa, and charges are pending in several more cases. Treatment costs for the state would exceed $21 million if all were convicted.

There is no evidence that 709C is an effective deterrent, and it may sabotage public health efforts.
1. Research shows transmission laws do NOT positively influence the behavior of people with HIV. Such laws may actually make HIV‐infected people less willing to get tested (i.e., you cannot be charged if you do not know your status) and less willing to disclose their HIV statuses because of fear of prosecution or prejudice.
2. Placing responsibility exclusively on people with HIV dilutes the public health message that everyone must protect him- or herself. People may (wrongly) assume the law means they’re not at risk and not responsible for using protection with people whose HIV statuses they do not know.
3. Testing and treatment work best to lower Iowa’s collective viral load so that fewer people become HIV infected. Science‐based prevention focusing on respect and communication is more effective than threats of prosecution.

Times have changed since Iowa Code 709C was enacted in 1998. In fact, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States published in July of 2010 encourages state legislatures to
“… reconsider whether existing laws continue to further the public interest and public health. In many instances, the continued existence and enforcement of these types of laws run counter to scientific evidence about routes of HIV transmission and may undermine the public health goals of promoting HIV screening and treatment.”
According to state Medicaid data, the annual cost of treating someone with HIV is $24,000. The Iowa Department of Corrections estimates that the annual cost of maintaining a person in prison is $31,500.