Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a hidden and dangerous public health crisis in the United States, with California leading in some of the highest infection rates. Increase in infections has flown under the public’s radar in large part due to social stigma and the asymptotic presentation of many STDs.
According to the CDC, more than one out of every six people aged 14 to 49 years have HSV-2 (genital herpes). Approximately 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV, and an estimated 36,400 new HIV infections occurred in 2018. As of 2018, there were an estimated 1.8 million cases of chlamydia (19% increase since 2014), 583,405 cases of gonorrhea (63% increase since 2014), and 35,063 cases of syphilis (71% increase since 2014).
In the last decade states have also established a firm stance on the negligent transmission of these sexually transmitted diseases. This has allowed increased success in civil actions against those who have negligently infected their partners with a sexually transmitted disease, many of which carry a lifelong diagnosis with devastating consequences.
When might a cause of action arise against someone from transmitting a STD in California?
· One sexual partner knowlingly transmits disease to victim; or
· One sexual partner transmits the disease to a victim when he/she should have known they were infected with the disease; or
· One sexual partner fails to taken precautions to not transmit the disease.
Types of STD Transmission
While the terms STD, venereal disease, and STI, are colloquially used to describe any disease, infection, or virus transmitted through sexual activity, the success of these cases varies depending on the diagnosis. Typically, the most common types of these cases in California involve HIV/AIDS or genital herpes transmission. This is primarily because they are incurable, necessitate lifelong medical care, and carry a heavy social burden. While not as commonly litigated, HPV, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, viral hepatitis, and trichomonas vaginalis can be life threatening and have long term health consequences.
Genital Herpes Transmission
The negative implications of a victim’s genital herpes diagnosis go beyond the initial embarrassment and discomfort caused by the painful ulcers during an outbreak. According to the CDC, “there is an estimated 2- to 4-fold increased risk of acquiring HIV, if individuals with genital herpes infection are genitally exposed to HIV.” Those infected with genital herpes are also at risk for developing aseptic meningitis, and many infected individuals develop extragenital ulcers that may be visible to the public, causing further shame and anguish.
For women, genital herpes is a lifelong infection that can have a devastating effect on their family planning. Neonatal herpes is one of the most serious complications for HSV-2 positive women because genital herpes can be passed from a mother to her child during pregnancy or even during childbirth. In a study funded by WHO, they found that neonatal herpes infections among infants have an alarming 60% fatality rate if left untreated. Even with treatment, the mortality rate and long-term neurological impairments for the infant are substantial.
The long-term consequences of an HIV infection are more broadly recognized in the United States. If left untreated, a plaintiff infected with HIV may progress through the three stages of the infection. Stage one is acute HIV infection, where a person is highly contagious and may experience flu-like symptoms. Stage two is called chronic HIV infection, which many present as asymptomatic during this stage but are still able to transmit HIV. The final and most severe stage is AIDS. At this stage, the individual can be highly infectious and according to the CDC, without treatment those suffering from AIDS typically survive three years.
Additional STD Concerns
Women infected with an STD are disproportionally at risk as there is a strong correlation between untreated STDs and infertility. Both gonorrhea and chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease which can lead to infertility. If left untreated, syphilis can be passed to a fetus during pregnancy causing congenital syphilis. According to the CDC, congenital syphilis cases increased 261% between 2013 and 2018. Congenital syphilis can cause early infant death, stillbirth, miscarriage and if the infant survives, they are prone to lifelong medical issues.
Potential Damages in these Cases may include:
· Medical Bills
· Loss of Earnings
· Pain, Suffering and Emotional Distress
· Property Damage
· Wrongful Death