Sexually transmitted diseases are detrimental to health – including physical, emotional, and social well-being – but what many people don’t know is that, in certain cases, STDs can also get one in trouble with the law.
Generally, things get complicated from here. While it is not a crime to withhold the fact that one has an STD from a partner, it is a crime to withhold that information in order to recklessly and/or knowingly transmit that STD to another person.
The distinguisher is the intent. If someone can prove that someone else intentionally infected them, it is an illegal act that warrants civil or criminal charges.
Even if the sex was consensual, each party is still protected by law under certain circumstances. If the afflicted person informs their partner of their STD before engaging in any sexual activity, they are protected legally in most states. However, this is not true in Kansas or Washington, according to LegalZoom.
STDs and the Law: Civil Cases
Civil cases mete out justice by providing compensation for those who have suffered wrongdoing in the eyes of the court. In many states, a civil lawsuit is justifiable if a person does not inform their partner about their STD, and their partner gets infected.
The reasons are obvious. Not only do STDs cause emotional stress, they can cause physical harm if they are undetected for a length of time. On top of that, the afflicted person will have to pay for doctor’s visits, and sometimes hospital bills. A large number of states allow people to be compensated for the infliction of these added inconveniences and potential trauma.
In states like New York, the law specifically stipulates that people have a duty to warn others about their STD. This is because, when a person has a disease that is possibly transmittable through their own means, they put other people at risk in various situations, and not just during sexual intimacy.
In regard to STDs, some of which are transmittable through skin-to-skin contact, bodily fluids like blood, and other means that don’t have to involve sex, the affected person becomes a danger to others if they do not properly inform people about their infection.
A Classic Case of He-Said, She-Said
An example of how sticky a situation can get involving contracting an STD from a partner unawares was reported by Glamour Health in 2010. The story involved a young woman and her boyfriend.
According to the woman, before they got together, she and her boyfriend had discussed their sexual histories and both said they had never tested positive for STDs. They ended up having sex on their first date. The next day, he called her and told her that she might want to get tested for HPV. When she asked why he didn’t explain. She saw her gynecologist a few days later for STD testing, but she wouldn’t get her test results for several weeks.
Glamour Health then reports that the young woman and her boyfriend continued to see each other. Things were going fine, and the woman even thought she was falling in love, when she received a letter from her doctor three months later. The results of her HPV test had gotten mixed up, so they were arriving late. As it turns out, she had tested positive for human papillomavirus.
However, she decided not to worry about it, since she had no symptoms, and she had read that the body often clears itself of the virus on its own (which is true). However, almost a year to the day after she and her boyfriend became sexually active together, she was diagnosed with both genital warts and severe dysplasia, which means there are precancerous cells growing on the cervix. Both are types of HPV.
According to the woman, her boyfriend had lied to her about his sexual health and had knowingly put her at risk for contracting HPV – and she did. To hold him accountable for his actions, she took him to court. The only problem was that she would have to prove that her boyfriend was the one who gave her HPV.
As it turns out, HPV is an STD that is difficult to trace as far as who infected who. The virus can lie dormant for months, even years, without any signs or symptoms. Transmission additionally does not require intercourse; HPV can be transmitted via skin-to-skin contact, and condoms are not 100 percent fail-safe protection against it. What’s more, there is no HPV test for men, and many are carriers without a trace of symptoms.
Despite the difficulty of proving that her boyfriend was, in fact, the person who gave her HPV, the woman persisted in her case. As it turns out, for civil cases, the jury only has to rule in favor of the case that seems more likely than not, whereas, in criminal cases, stronger evidence is needed in order to arrive at that famous phrase, “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Though the woman’s boyfriend perseveres in saying that he has never had an STD, according to Glamour, the woman still won her case.
How to Avoid Legal Implications with STD Testing in Frisco, TX
When it comes to sexually transmitted diseases in Plano, TX, there are ways to protect oneself both physically and legally.
A good safeguard is to get tested at the very beginning of a relationship, even if both parties have been tested before. As the Glamour Health story illustrates, people are not always truthful when it comes to their sexual histories. In the beginning of a relationship, two people still don’t know each other well enough to determine that they can trust each other completely, without a doubt.
It may seem cynical, but STD testing early, not to mention whenever a person finds a new sexual partner, is the only way to be certain about the sexual health of everyone involved. It will also help the two people avoid ending up in a messy situation with blame, deceit, and finger-pointing.