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A person who has reason to believe he or she is HIV-positive may be sued by sexual partners if they become infected, the California supreme court ruled on Monday, broadening the state's view of when liability arises from the disease. Knowingly passing along HIV, which leads to AIDS, is already illegal in California, and people who do so may be sued for damages in state court. This decision means people could be liable even if they do not know for sure they have HIV but have engaged in activities that put them at risk.
In their decision, a majority of the court's justices held that they "cannot agree that persons who have reason to know they are infected with HIV, a gravely serious disease with no known cure, should be subject to a lesser duty of care than persons who have reason to know they are infected with other sexually transmitted diseases."
"In sum, we are not persuaded that California should be the first jurisdiction in the country to limit liability for the negligent transmission of HIV only to those who have actual knowledge they are HIV positive," the majority held.
Their decision addressed a lawsuit involving a married couple in which the wife and husband were both infected with HIV. Each charged the other with transmitting the disease.
The wife is seeking evidence from her husband's sexual history to establish he had reason to know of infection. (Reuters)