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Have you ever hid an STD from a sexual partner? In many countries, including several states in the U.S., it could land you in jail or leave you open to lawsuits.
In Germany, 28-year-old pop star Nadja Benaissa is on trial this week for allegedly infecting at least one partner with HIV. On the stand yesterday, the member of the girl band No Angels admitted to having unprotected sex with several men without telling them that she was HIV-positive.
The musician is charged with grievous bodily harm for allegedly infecting one man, with whom she had a three-month relationship, and has also been charged with attempted bodily harm for allegedly having sex with two others who were not infected. If convicted, Benaissa faces six months to 10 years in prison.
According to her testimony, Benaissa became addicted to crack cocaine at the age of 14, and found out she had HIV when she became pregnant at 16. She hid her HIV status for fear of destroying her rock ‘n’ roll career. Not that Nadja has anything to worry about on that front. Sordid tales like this may kill careers in Germany, but in Hollywood, they’re career-launchers. Benaissa could pose naked in Playboy, land a reality TV show and sell her life rights to a filmmaker for a cool million. And if she goes to jail, she’ll probably earn even more.
In the United States, not telling your partner that you have HIV or AIDS is a felony in 27 states. What I find surprising is it’s not a felony in all 50. What may be even more surprising to learn is that knowingly exposing your partner to other incurable STDs like herpes and HPV is also a criminal offense in several U.S. states. And if the criminal charges don’t stick, there are always lawsuits. This year in Palm Springs, Calif., a 56-year-old woman was awarded nearly $7 million in damages after her 77-year-old partner gave her herpes. Where criminal cases require proof beyond a reasonable doubt, civil cases are much easier to win, because you need a lot less evidence.
In 2008, a Los Angeles woman, Bridget B., sued her ex-husband for giving her HIV. When she fell sick, she visited the doctor, where she found out she was HIV-positive. She believed she had infected her husband, until evidence popped up that he had been soliciting sex from men online. Though he still claims that she’s the one who got him sick, Bridget was awarded $12.5 million.
Whereas HIV cases are relatively easy to trace, proving that someone gave you herpes or HPV is virtually impossible -- unless you’ve only had one sexual partner. That’s because the majority of people have been exposed to the viruses at some point in their life, and symptoms can remain dormant for years. But in 2008, that didn’t stop a jury in Iowa from awarding $1.5 million to a woman who claimed her promiscuous boyfriend infected her with HPV. Even her lawyer admitted it would be impossible to prove for sure. Still, if he was cheating on her, was it justifiable punishment?
We all know that when trying to get someone in bed, the majority of people are not upfront about their past sexual escapades. Considering how many people have been exposed to one or more STDs in their life, it’s a gamble to engage in unprotected sex, even within a monogamous relationship. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), at least 50 percent of all adult Americans will have HPV in their life, and nearly 50 percent of African-American women have genital herpes. And let’s not forget oral herpes, otherwise known as cold sores. Almost 70 percent of Americans are infected with oral herpes, which can be transmitted to the genitals via oral sex -- even if there are no cold sores present. With the statistics stacked against us, perhaps we need to take a little more responsibility for engaging in unprotected sex.
Should people be able to sue for contracting an STD? Chime in below.