Over 20 years after the AIDS epidemic first started making headlines, issues relating to the disease are still making precedent in our courts. The California Supreme Court is currently hearing the case of a Los Angeles woman who is suing her former husband for infecting her with HIV.
In California, as in many other states, it is a felony to knowingly expose another person to HIV. The defendant in this case, known as John B., did not know he was positive when he married and subsequently infected his ex-wife with HIV. Several months after they married, Bridget B. fell ill and was diagnosed as being HIV positive. Shortly after she became sick, her husband was diagnosed with AIDS. When the couple wed, John B. tested HIV negative when he applied for life insurance. After the diagnoses of himself and his wife, he admitted to her that he had sexual intercourse with another man prior to their marriage. In the suit, Bridget B. is asking for the names and addresses of her ex-husband’s former partners as well as his complete medical history.
To the courts, this case represents a line of how much information one can legally obtain during a lawsuit. To everyone else, the ideas brought up in this case can teach us all something very important about HIV and AIDS transmission.
1. HIV and AIDS are still prominent in our society. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that 40 million new HIV infections occur in the United States every year.
2.HIV infections are prominent within the younger population. According to the CDC, almost half of the 40 million newly infected people each year are under the age of 25.
3. You can’t tell if a person has been infected with HIV or AIDS simply by looking at them. Bridget B. couldn’t tell and neither can you
4. It is possible to test negative for HIV and still carry the virus. If you’ve engaged in any kind of activity that would result in potential exposure to HIV and test negative, heed the advice of your healthcare practitioner and get tested again.
5. Responsible partners get tested for HIV. They also ask their partners if they’ve been tested, as well. If you can’t have this conversation with your partner, perhaps you should reconsider having sex with them.
The most effective way to protect yourself and your partner is through education. Learn the facts about HIV infection and transmission and get tested. If you choose to have sexual intercourse, wear a condom. If you choose to engage in intravenous drug use, locate a needle exchange program to reduce your risk of becoming infected. Information about HIV and AIDS is available from many reputable sources online, including the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov). HIV testing is available at doctor’s offices, clinics, the Cal Poly Health Center and Planned Parenthood.
Robin and Jessica are senior nutrition students and Peer Health Educators. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.