Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kiss and Tell?

Yesterday's post (regarding how a dentist was successfully sued for $1.5 million for giving his girlfriend a sexually transmitted disease) apparently generated quite a bit of water cooler discussion. What if he didn't KNOW he had HPV? Should he still be held liable? How can you PROVE someone gave you a specific disease?
The truth is that the only way to KNOW 100% for sure that someone gave you an STD is if you have never been physically intimate with any other person before your current partner- and that includes any form of intimacy that can occur with your pants off. Kissing on the mouth can certainly pass herpes, but in general, kissing, hugging, holding hands and other forms of intimacy that occur with your pants on are "safe".
Viral and bacterial infections often show up within a few days to weeks of exposure, but the sneaky part is that many of them can silently hang around for weeks, months, and even years in some cases. Obviously, if you are with partner A today, and with partner B several months later, then break out with an STD a few weeks into the second relationship- the picture is cloudy. Certainly, odds are better that it is the recent partner, but bacteria and viruses don't come with identification labels (though that would be so helpful!)
The other confounding feature is that symptoms from these infections tend to come and go until the infection is diagnosed and properly treated. In the interim, many people assume they are "cured" because their blister or discharge or discomfort goes away. Unfortunately, that is exactly when they are likely to pass the disease along to another partner.
So, the jury in this case had much to ponder, but the preponderance of evidence strongly suggested this man did, in fact, give his girlfriend BOTH genital warts AND HPV that caused pre-cancerous changes to her cervix. And, for the record, the evidence was strong enough to hold up under appeal.
I hope this high profile case will generate more honest discussions between partners, as well as make people think twice (on both sides) before they kiss and do NOT tell!
BOTTOM LINE: STDs are often SILENT, so expect your partner to get tested before he or she can "prove" his or her disease-free status!

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