Living with an STD can force you to make some difficult decisions from time to time. Though millions of people are affected, an STD diagnosis is understandably not a popular topic of discussion between casual acquaintances. And while we’re not saying you need to broadcast your condition to everyone you meet, informing sexual partners is a different story. Is it illegal to hide an STD from your partner? Technically no. There’s no law that explicitly states that you HAVE to tell a partner that you have a sexually transmitted disease. However, that doesn’t give you the right or legal pass to act in what might be deemed a reckless or dangerous manner sexually. Such actions can be punishable in criminal or civil court.
Many states do have laws on the books that prohibit the transmission of at least certain STDs (specifically HIV), but the details of the laws differ greatly from state to state. Generally speaking, this means that if you are knowingly living with HIV, you are not allowed to act in a fashion that would put others at risk of becoming infected. This would include unprotected sexual activity, needle sharing, and any other act in which bodily fluids are passed from one person to another.
An infected person who commits these acts can, in many jurisdictions, be charged with criminal transmission of an STD. In more extreme cases, people have even been charged and convicted of attempted murder (though these cases are rare and typically involve not only reckless, but blatantly malicious actions on the part of the accused).
However, if you are unaware that you have one of these diseases, and it can be proven in a court of law that you truly did not know, then you cannot be criminally prosecuted for transmitting the disease to someone else.
Again, most of the cases you hear about in the media regarding the criminal transmission of an STD deal with HIV specifically as most states do criminalize the transmission of the virus to some degree. In regards to other STDs, states will have usually less stringent laws (or no laws at all), so you’ll want to research the regulations in your home state for specifics on the matter.
To some degree, one can be sued for any reason whatsoever. And people have been sued for transmitting an STD to someone else, regardless of whether or not a criminal case is filed. Cases like these are typically argued as one of three offenses: negligence, battery, or fraud. In a nutshell, one would ask the following questions for each case:
- Negligence: Did the defendant have and ignore an obligation to disclose their STD diagnoses from a sexual partner?
- Battery: Did the defendant cause physical harm to the plaintiff by transmitting an STD?
- Fraud: Did the defendant deliberately hide or lie to a partner about having an STD in a deceptive effort at having intercourse?
Again, the details can get rather dicey (even more so than in criminal cases) so we won’t get into speculation or outlandish hypotheticals here. Every case brings different evidence, different arguments, different stipulations, and different results. So as helpful as it might be, it would be virtually impossible to turn this into a black or white topic with clear cut answers one way or the other.
Forgive us, but we do feel like this needs to be said. While we are not the relationship morality police by any means, we do advise that, regardless of what the law states, you remain open and honest with your partner about your sexual health and history and that you take the proper precautions to ensure that you both stay as safe as possible. This means following safe sex practices and getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases and infections when appropriate. Remember, just because an action or lack thereof isn’t technically “illegal,” doesn’t mean it’s not right.