Court Considers HIV Disclosure Case

Gretchen Gallen
LOS ANGELES – In a case that could potentially impact the adult entertainment industry in California, the state Supreme Court is reviewing a controversial lawsuit involving a woman seeking damages from a partner who she claims failed to inform her that he was HIV positive.

The plaintiff claims her husband infected her with HIV on their wedding night and that it was his responsibility to inform her that he might have, at some point in his sexual history, been exposed to the disease through unprotected sex.

She is claiming that the defendant “knowingly and negligently” infected her with the virus.

The plaintiff and defendant were married in 2000. Six months later, the plaintiff was diagnosed with HIV. The husband, who also began showing signs of the disease, later admitted to his wife that he had had affairs with men prior to the marriage, in particular, a partner who was known to carry the virus.

The woman is challenging current California law, which makes it a liability for failing to inform a partner that he/she has a sexually transmitted disease, and is seeking to stretch that law a little further by making it a person’s legal responsibility to inform a sexual partner that they have reason to suspect they contracted a sexual disease, whether they have been diagnosed or not.

The groundbreaking nature of the case is that in addition to being required by law to inform a sexual partner that they “might” be carrying a sexually communicable disease, a person might also be required to reveal, whether diagnosed or not, that they might have been exposed to HIV at some point in their life.

The court must now decide whether the defendant is required to reveal names and details of past sexual dalliances, including medical records, which may in some way have led to him contracting HIV. The plaintiff can then seek damages against her former husband based on the fact that he had reason to believe he had contracted the disease prior to marrying her and knowingly failed to disclose that fact.

The court also will have to decide whether a person can be legally privy to another person’s sexual history, and the ramifications this could have for people not directly involved in the case, but somehow connected sexually to the defendant.

According to reports, the defendant’s lawyer argued that only if someone knows they have a sexually transmitted disease, and have been diagnosed, should they be obligated to reveal their condition to a prospective partner. But having to reveal all past sexual partners raises privacy concerns.

A ruling will be issued within 90 days of Tuesday’s hearing.