Around 2,000 Iowans are HIV positive, and many feel an intense stigma living in a state where relatively few people have the virus. Three HIV positive Iowans share their stories and their opinions about Iowa Code 709 – “Criminal Transmission of HIV.”
Laura Friest is a mother of two sons and lives in Des Moines. She was diagnosed in August of 1998 in Omaha, Nebraska after contracting the virus from her fiance. She believes transmission should be prosecuted with criminal law, but she says Iowa’s law is “awfully harsh.”
John Chamberlin lives in Des Moines and is the vice president of the HIV/AIDs advocacy group Positive Iowans Taking Charge (PITCH). He was diagnosed with HIV in 1996 in St. Louis, and he thinks he got it from drug use. Since learning of his positive status, Chamberlain has felt quality of life rapidly decline. He says the laws are archaic and deter people from getting tested.
Tami Haught was diagnosed with HIV in 1993 after being infected by her late husband, Roger, who died of AIDs in 1996. She lives in Nashua, Iowa, with her mother, Evelyn Thompson, and son, Adrian. Even though she is the only HIV-positive member of her family, the virus has altered the course of all their lives.
Haught is one of Iowa’s most active HIV/AIDs advocates and is president of PITCH, Positive Iowans Taking Charge, a non-profit organization that supports people with the virus. She advocates repealing of Iowa Code 709C, which criminalizes the exposure and transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus.