Legalities of STD Infection Disclosures
Did you know that steamy one-night-stand you just had could make you a criminal? Depending on the State in which you live, the transmission of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) to another person could be a criminal or civil offense.
Failure to disclose your STD status with any sexual partner could result in legal action. Still, many people are reluctant to disclose or discuss their sexual health information with their sexual partner(s). While this type of conversation is far from comfortable, it should be an essential part of even the most casual relationship.
Many STDs do not have symptoms, which makes it easy for the disease to be spread from one unknowing partner to the next in rapid fashion. Indeed, the stigma of getting an STD test can be halting but when it comes to personal and sexual health, the stigma should be on NOT getting tested. Additionally, when it comes to having sex with a new partner, sexual health and medical history should be at the forefront of conversation before either pair of pants drop.
With that being said, most laws are in place for people who knowingly infect another person with an STD and the liability of knowing is not emphasized.
STDAware believes that there is no reason for anyone to not know his or her STD status. It is the STDAware mission to provide affordable, simple, and convenient testing services so that everyone can be aware of their STD status. STDAware offers full panel and individual testing options. To learn more about the testing services provided by STDAware, click here.
Taking responsibility to know one’s STD status defends a person both legally and medically. Medical experts agree that routine STD screening is one of the strongest defenses against the spread of STDs. Most STDs are curable with antibiotics and the ones that cannot be cured can be managed to a level where a healthy sex life is still on the table. When both partners are tested for STDs before having sex together, any STD condition can be appropriately addressed before moving forward.
STDAware is the ONLY online STD testing provider that offers post-test medical consultation with a board-certified physician AND prescription treatment* at no additional cost to their patients. To find out more about the free medical services provided at STDAware, click here.
*STDAware offers counseling and resource solutions for all STD conditions except oral herpes (HSV-1). Patients who test positive for having chlamydia, gonorrhea, or HSV-2 will qualify for free treatment.
Potential Lawsuits For Transmitting An STD
Transmission of an STD could result in criminal or civil action depending on the nature of the infection, intent, and the State in which the incident occurs.
There are two main types of lawsuits that could potentially be brought in the instance of an STD transmission to an un-consenting party. They are Negligence and Assault & Battery.
Negligence (civil or criminal offense)
Definition: The harming of another in a reckless or careless way that a reasonable person would not exercise.
Generally speaking, all people have the legal duty to act in a non-negligent manner towards one another. This hold true when it comes to the spread of STDs. Anyone who knows they are infected with an STD has the duty to take every responsible measure in preventing the spread of their STD. Responsible measures include disclosing STD history with sexual partners, using protection, routine STD testing, and appropriate STD treatment.
In cases where negligence is claimed, even though and infected person may use safe sex methods of protection it may not absolve a person of liability. If an individual infects another person with an STD, without first informing that person of their STD status, there is a case for negligence.
Negligence lawsuits do not take intent into account. This means that even if an individual does not intentionally transmit an STD the case for negligence still stands.
Assault & Battery (civil and criminal offense)
Assault Definition: The attempt to injure or harm, or the act of injuring or harming another person. In some States, and under certain circumstances, the charge can extend to the threat of injury or harm.
Battery Definition: Physical contact with another individual which results in injury or harm. A tort is an act that is committed by one party and ends up causing harm to another.
When an individual intentionally infects another with an STD it can be claimed as an “intentional tort” meaning that the act committed (in this case sex) resulted in harm (STD transmission) to another party. To the average citizen it may seem like an unlikely crime but there are multiple instances where an individual intentionally and deliberately has had sex with another person with clear intent and malice in order transfer HIV or other life-threatening disease. In some countries it may be considered attempted murder to knowingly infect another person with HIV.
Unlike cases of negligence, a charge of assault & battery does take intent into consideration. General intent (Mens Rea) is all that needs to be established in order to claim intent. This means that even though an individual did not necessarily intend for the other party to become infected with their STD, the act of sex while intentionally withholding their STD status, supports an assault & battery claim. The burden of proof is then on the prosecutor to give evidence that the infected individual was aware that they had an STD, and then engaged in sexual activities which purposefully or recklessly endangered others.
Legal suits for STD transmission usually involve STDs that are life-threatening or cannot be cured. In most States this generally relates to HIV but can also include Herpes and some forms of HPV. Legal claims for STDs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis or typically overlooked because they are easily cured and cost more to prosecute than to treat.
Civil vs. Criminal Charges
What sets a civil charge apart from a criminal charge comes down to intent and the severity of the STD in question. In civil suits, the effected person (plaintiff) will bring the charge to the offending party (defendant). Civil suits require that the defendant obtain their own legal defense and are often settled through mediation. Civil penalties typically result in monetary penalties where the defendant can be asked to pay damages to the infected party and compensate them for the physical, emotional, and psychological damages, which are defined and placed value on depending on the nature and severity of the STD.
Criminal charges are categorized as either felony or misdemeanor offenses for which the action is considered an offense against society even though the offense happened to one person. Felony charges are typically more severe and involve malicious intent whereas misdemeanor charges typically come with lighter sentencing and indicate the lack of malicious intent.
Criminal cases are prosecuted by the State, rather than an individual, and are reviewed in court by a jury. Legal defense is provided to the defendant if they cannot afford it. The standard of proof is also different than civil cases in that the prosecuting party has to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed the criminal act of transmitting the STD. Criminal penalties for STD transmission can range from large fines, community service, jail time, registration as a sex offender, or a combination.
The intentional transmission of STDs is considered a criminal act in most States, which means that anyone who is infected with HIV or another life-altering STD must disclosed their infection before entering into a sexual relationship.
However, in order to criminalize the STD transmission, the infecting party must have prior knowledge of their STD status. Unfortunately, the majority of the time, the infected individual has neither been diagnosed and has no obvious symptoms. When this happens, a gray area exists with regard to intent and has caused controversy in how to approach legal charges and rulings.
While most laws come with heavy consequences for knowingly infecting another person with an STD, the laws have also been written to prevent criminal charges being brought against individuals who unknowingly pass the virus. If there is no proof that an individual was aware that they were infected with an STD, that person cannot be held accountable for failure to disclose their STD status. However the argument can be made that the responsibility of being routinely tested for STDs falls on the individual and any sexual active individual should be held accountable for knowing whether or not they have an STD for personal and public health reasons.
The widespread nature of STDs in America is largely contributed to the lack of clear diagnoses through the routine screening for STD infection. Lack of testing can be further attributed to the lack of awareness around STDs in general, the stigmatization of STD screening, and lack of access to testing services.
STDAware is committed to the de-stigmatization of STD screening and provides no-cost educational resources as well as convenient and accessible testing services. To find out how STDAware makes STD testing simple and convenient, click here.
Legally and socially, if you have an STD it is your responsibility to keep it from spreading it. Medical experts agree that the routine and pro-active testing for STDs is one of the strongest defenses against STD infection and transmission.
Knowing your STD status can protect your sexual health as well as your legal standing.
State Laws For Reporting STD Status
Each U.S. State has its own laws surround the liability of having an STD infection. STDAware has compiled the following information on the current (effective in 2018) laws and responsibilities regarding STD status.
- Informed Consent: The requirement that any person who is aware that they are infected with an STD or HIV must tell their sexual partner(s) prior to sexual engagement.
- Counseling: A partner-notification law which requires healthcare providers to inform any, known, HIV positive person’s sex or needle-sharing partner(s).
- HIV Laboratory HIV Reporting: The requirement for any testing lab or clinic to report positive HIV results to the State Health Department. This allows each city and state to monitor the HIV statistics. The state’s health department will remove all identifying information and share the results for statistical purposes with the WHO and CDC. The CDC does not share the information with anyone else and only uses it to track all national public health trends.
HIV & STD Exposure Laws By State
- Alabama: Informed Consent, Counseling & Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Alaska: Informed Consent, Counseling & Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Arizona: Arizona law makes it a misdemeanor offense for people infected with an STD who knowingly expose others to that disease. It is a broad law that encompasses any type of infectious disease, not just STDs.
- Arkansas: Informed Consent, Counseling & Laboratory HIV Reporting
- California: California has three criminal laws specifically addressing STDs. Willful Exposure-anyone who has any kind of infectious disease commits a misdemeanor offense when he/she exposes it to others. Donating tissue-it is a felony offense if one who is knowingly infected donates bodily materials. Sexual Intercourse-It is a crime to engage in unprotected sexual activities with someone else if one is knowingly infected with HIV.
- Colorado: Informed Consent, Counseling & Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Connecticut: Informed Consent, Counseling & Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Delaware: Informed Consent, Counseling & Laboratory HIV Reporting
- District of Columbia (Washington DC): Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Florida: Florida has several criminal laws that criminalize specific types of conduct: sexual intercourse, prostitution, prostitution with HIV, and criminal transmission of HIV. The penalty one will receive depends on the individual crime charged.
- Georgia: Unlike other states, Georgia’s criminal STD laws apply to a small number of STDs. Only activities associated with HIV or hepatitis will result in a conviction of an STD crime.
- Hawaii: Informed Consent, Counseling & Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Idaho: Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Illinois: Illinois’s STD law only specifically targets HIV and not other STDs.
- Indiana: In this state, passing certain STDs to others is a crime depending upon the circumstance of the case. It will either be a felony or misdemeanor offense.
- Iowa: Informed Consent, Counseling & Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Kansas: Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Kentucky: Informed Consent, Counseling & Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Louisiana: Informed Consent, Counseling & Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Maine: Informed Consent, Counseling & Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Maryland: Informed Consent, Counseling & Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Massachusetts: Informed Consent, Counseling & Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Michigan: It is a crime in Michigan for a person who knows (meaning in
- Michigan “diagnosed”) he or she has HIV to have sexual activity with another person or donate blood without disclosing that information. Other STDs are not included in this law, yet it is still considered reckless behavior resulting in possible charges of assault.
- Minnesota: Informed Consent, Counseling & Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Mississippi: Informed Consent, Counseling & Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Missouri: Counseling & Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Montana: It is regarded as a misdemeanor for anyone who knows that he or she is infected with any STD or HIV to expose another person.
- Nebraska: While other states have set penalties for transmitting HIV or STDs. A person who transmits a sexually transmitted disease (STD) to another person in Nebraska may be charged with a crime under Nebraska’s assault or attempted murder statutes.
- Nevada: It is a crime to expose another person to HIV or any other communicable (contagious) diseases in Nevada.
- New Hampshire: Informed Consent, Counseling & Laboratory HIV Reporting
- New Jersey: In New Jersey, it is a felony for someone who knowingly has HIV, chancroid, gonorrhea, syphilis, or herpes to expose another person through sexual contact.
- New Mexico: While some states have specific laws criminalizing for STDs, in
- New Mexico a person who knowingly exposes someone else will be charged under Mexico’s battery laws.
- New York: In New York, it is a misdemeanor for any person who knows that he or she is infected with an STD to have sexual intercourse with another person.
- North Carolina: People who know they are infected with HIV can be convicted of a crime if they fail to use condoms or inform their sex partners. Additionally, those who are infected with other STDs and expose others can be charged with assault.
- North Dakota: North Dakota does not specify particular STDs but stipulates that individuals will be criminally charged if he or she knowingly exposes another person.
- Ohio: People who know they are infected with HIV and engage in sexual activity, bite or spit on someone can be charged with criminal exposure. Those knowingly infected with other STDs and expose others could be charged with assault.
- Oklahoma: Informed Consent, Counseling & Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Oregon: Informed Consent, Counseling & Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania does not have specific laws that criminalize the transmission of STDs. Instead, the state’s general law is used for those convicted of reckless endangerment.
- Rhode Island: Informed Consent, Counseling& Laboratory HIV Reporting
- South Carolina: Laboratory HIV Reporting
- South Dakota: Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Tennessee: It is a felony for a person who knows he or she is infected with HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C to engage in sexual contact, donate blood or organs or share needles. Additionally, it is considered a crime to expose another to any STD.
- Texas: In Texas, a person who knows that they are infected with HIV/AIDS and intentionally exposes another person to the disease may be charged with assault with a deadly weapon, or with attempted murder. Transmission of STDs may be filed as a personal injury in civil court. Carlson Attorneys specializes in civil cases of STD transmission within the State of Texas.
- Utah: Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Vermont: Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Virginia: In Virginia, it is a crime for a person who knows he or she has HIV, syphilis, or hepatitis B to engage in sexual contact
- Washington: Washington has three varying laws regarding STD transmission: Criminal exposure to HIV is a felony assault, exposing another to an STD is a crime, and exposing another to a contagious disease is also a crime
- West Virginia: Informed Consent, Counseling & Laboratory HIV Reporting
- Wisconsin: Informed Consent & Counseling
- Wyoming: Laboratory HIV Reporting
Healthcare Provider’s Liability To Disclose STDs
People who work in healthcare have an increased responsibility to disclose STD status. Liability for both exposure and actual transmission of an STD to a patient is taken very seriously in a healthcare environment and employees are under strict protocols for notifying management if they suspect, or know that they have come into contact with any infectious disease.
If a hospital worker infects a patient with an STD, or any other infectious disease, the patient can press charges based on medical malpractice. In such cases, the plaintiff must follow medical malpractice rules that are very specific. The only exception here is it is not considered a “medical malpractice” if the STD was transmitted through intercourse. In which case other disciplinary measures will be explored for patient/staff relations.
Inversely, if a patient is infected with an STD by hospital staff, the medical providers have a legal ability and right to disclose the patient’s STD status with any other staff members that may come into contact, or directly treat the infected patient. Disclosure of this personal health information in a hospital setting for treatment and safety purposes falls within HIPAA regulations.
Depending on the State in which you live in, if the medical provider knows the sexual partner(s) of the HIV infected person they are treating, they have a legal ability and, in some States, the legal requirement to notify the sexual partners of that HIV positive individual.
STD Status & Privacy Laws
In most cases, individual STD status falls under personal health information (PHI) that must be secured and cannot be shared without express consent. Any medical health care provider and their affiliates who are in possession of any type of personal health information are obligated to follow the privacy laws under federal regulations and standards as specified within HIPAA guidelines.
To learn more about HIPAA, click here.
Ultimately, the unauthorized sharing of any PHI, including STD status, is a criminal offense and can result in hefty fines and potential jail time.
When it comes to safeguarding STD status and information, STDAware takes extra measures to ensure that above standard safety measures are in place to protect patient information. To learn more about the STDAware Privacy Promise, click here.
Don’t Get Sued. Get Tested!
The transmission of an STD can result in legal action that could literally make a one-night stand a criminal offense.
Knowing your sexual health status not only projects you from a medical standpoint but from a legal perspective as well. Because lack of communication and awareness around STDs are the leading causes of the widespread nature of STDs in America, today measures should be taken to protect both your sexual health and your non-criminal status. When it comes to STDs, approaching sex, in general, from a mature and responsible standpoint can prevent a lifetime of medical and legal complications.
Being tested for STDs demonstrates a level of self-respect as well as respect for any sexual partners. In tandem with placing a self requirement on regular STD testing, the ability to have open and honest communications with any sexual partners about sexual health history, and requesting sexual partners are also screened for STDs, has a large impact on the reduction in the spread of STDs and also creates a level of protection against any potential legal action.
Routine and proactive STD screening should be included in any sexually active individual’s overall healthcare routine. STDAware offers full panel and individual testing options. STDAware is committed to providing simple and accessible testing services. To learn more about how simple and quick STDAware makes getting tested, click here.
STDAware’s caring and knowledgeable advice counselors are available to speak with you and answer any of your STD questions. Contact us toll-free: 1-855-588-6958 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You might also be interested in reading:
- Testing methods and when to get tested
- How to ask your partner to get tested for STDs
- How to tell your partner you have Herpes