California's HIV Reporting and Exposure Laws - The Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

The Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

California's HIV Reporting and Exposure Laws

HIV infections have somewhat declined due to the increasing success of medicating those living with HIV and redoubled efforts for sex education, yet Los Angeles is still troubled by new HIV infections every day.

According to a Los Angeles County Department of Public Health study published in March, Los Angeles County comprised more than a third of the reported new cases of HIV infection in California in 2011.

Because of this great public health concern, California laws require that HIV infection be reported in some cases, and for intentional exposure to be punished.

Mandatory Reporting of HIV Test Results

Once a patient tests positive for HIV, California state law requires that the care provider or clinic forward the case to a local health officer to report to the California Department of Public Health.

These records are kept confidential and cannot be compelled to be released, even in a criminal or civil trial. In fact, any person who breaks this confidentiality by willfully disclosing a patient's HIV testing information to a third party can be charged with a misdemeanor.

HIV Exposure With Intent

California differs from states like Ohio, Arkansas, and Michigan, which have "strict" HIV disclosure laws that make it illegal for any HIV-positive person to have sexual contact with a partner without disclosing their status.

Under California law, a person engaging in unprotected sex can be convicted of a felony if that person:

  • Knows he or she is infected with HIV at the time;
  • Has not disclosed his or her HIV status to her partner; and
  • Acts with intent to infect his or her partner.

Mere evidence that he or she knew her status is not sufficient to prove the specific intent to infect the other partner.

If You Suspect You've Been Exposed to HIV

If you've recently been in a risky situation that may have exposed you to HIV, make sure you:

  • Immediately cease all sexual activity until you get HIV testing,
  • Contact your medical provider or local health clinic to receive an HIV test and counseling, and
  • Inquire about post-exposure prophylactics (PEP) if you've been exposed within a few days.

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