HIV is a highly contagious virus that is transmitted through contact between broken skin, wounds, or transfer of bodily fluids. It is commonly transferred through sexual encounters.

While there is no federal law requiring all those infected with HIV disclose their HIV status to their sexual partners, more than 24 states require an HIV-positive person to disclose their status to all their sexual partners.

What is the Penalty for Not Disclosing HIV Status to a Sexual Partner?

Each state has its own laws with regard to disclosing one’s HIV status. As stated above, more than 24 states require a person infected with HIV to disclose their HIV status to all sexual partners. Failing to do so in these states can carry heavy penalties. Some states have monetary fines and imprisonment, whereas others consider it a criminal offense.

For example, in California, it’s considered a felony for an individual who is HIV-positive to engage in unprotected sex, fail to tell their partner about their status, or engage in sex with the intent to infect their partner. If found guilty, the person can face up to eight years in prison.

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Can My Sexual Partner Sue Me for Failing to Disclose My HIV Status?

If you fail to disclose your HIV status, he or she may have grounds to sue you. This is true even if you do not transmit HIV to your partner because you put them at risk. For a civil lawsuit, the main requirement is that the partner has HIV/AIDS and was aware of it. Some states will hold that partner responsible even if precautions were taken for safe-sex (e.g. using a condom).

Can My Partner Be Found Guilty of Negligence?

Yes. Regardless of your state, if your partner knew he or she was infected with HIV and failed to inform you, the person may be sued for negligence. To prevail in a negligence case, you would need to prove the following:

  • Your partner knew he/she had HIV;
  • Your partner had a duty to inform you or duty to prevent the transmission of his/her STD;
  • This duty was breached; and,
  • As a result of the breach of duty, you contracted HIV.

In negligence cases, the plaintiff only needs to demonstrate that a reasonable person in the defendant’s position would have told his/her partner that he/she had a HIV before having sex.

Further, negligence does not require that the defendant had ill intent. In that regard, a defendant who used protection (ex: a condom) can still be found negligent and liable for compensatory damages to the plaintiff.

Can I Sue for Sexual Battery?

Yes. Regardless of the state where you reside, you can sue your partner for sexual battery. For this cause of action, you would argue that not disclosing that your partner was HIV positive was tantamount to unconsented sex. However, whether you prevail depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding the sexual encounter.

Can I Sue Someone for Disclosing My HIV Status Without My Consent?

It depends on the circumstance. Disclosure without your consent may violate your right to privacy, HIV confidentiality, and patient health care record confidentiality. There are laws that prevent any health officials or third-party organizations from disclosing your HIV status without your consent since a patient’s medical information is confidential by law.

Notwithstanding, some health departments require health providers to disclose one’s HIV status to an infected individual’s sexual partner in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

Should I Seek Legal Counsel?

If your sexual partner failed to disclose that he or she had HIV, you should speak to a knowledgeable personal injury attorney right away. An attorney skilled in personal injuries can help determine whether you have a claim and represent you during all stages of litigation.

If you were exposed to HIV/AIDS and/or potentially contracted it, then you should check with your local state laws to see if your state prosecutes those who intentionally infect others with HIV. For the safety of others in your community, it's important to find and stop any individuals who knowingly and purposefully expose or infect others against their will.