California Supreme Court Justified in HIV Transmission Ruling, State Should Update Criminal Code, Editorial Says
The California Supreme Court on Monday "made the right decision" to expand the definition of liability in state civil courts for HIV-positive people who put others at risk of contracting the disease, but "[a]s groundbreaking as this case may be, it's hard to know how big an effect it will have," a Los Angeles Times editorial says (Los Angeles Times, 7/7). The state Supreme Court on Monday ruled 4-3 that an HIV-positive woman can sue the sexual partner from whom she allegedly contracted the virus, even if the man did not know he was HIV-positive at the time. The court also ruled that a portion of the man's sexual history must be disclosed in the case. A California law (SB 705) makes it a felony, punishable by up to eight years in prison, to knowingly expose or infect an unaware person to HIV. The law also allows a person's HIV status to be disclosed if the person is the subject of a criminal investigation for committing this crime (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/5). Trials involving sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS are rare, and according to the state Supreme Court's decision, the accuser in civil cases must prove that the defendant "should have known they were at risk" of spreading the disease, the editorial says. "[L]egally, that's a high bar to cross," the editorial adds. Despite this challenge, "[w]ith this decision, California's civil statute on this issue now makes more sense than its criminal code," the editorial says, concluding, "Hopefully, this will entice the state to update its outdated criminal penalties as well" (Los Angeles Times, 7/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.