Several legal cases in the news have involved plaintiffs infected with STDs by a partner – who knew the risk and didn’t inform them beforehand. Is your health status your own business, even if it endangers someone else?
Legal expert Anahita Sedaghatfar says that legally, it’s not. “In most states, you have a legal obligation to inform a sex partner if you have an STD before you have sex with them.” This applies to all STDs, but most often legal cases are brought for incurable ones, like herpes and HIV. In many states, you are liable even if your partner doesn’t contract the disease – having exposed them to the possibility is enough.
What if the news comes as a shock to you, too? “HSV-2 or genital herpes – one in six Americans carries it, but 80-plus percent of people don’t know they have it,” points out ER Physician Dr. Travis Stork. Are you still liable if you didn’t know you were infected? Anahita says that even in that case, many states hold defendants liable if they reasonably should have known.
That doesn’t mean that it’s easy for a plaintiff to prevail. They need to prove a direct link between their infection and the defendant – and their own medical histories come into play.
The Doctors worry these laws could be abused for revenge or extortion. And we’d all be better off if we tested early and often for STDs – both ourselves and our potential partners.