September #39 : HIV Confidential - by Arthur S. Leonard

POZ - Health, Life and HIV
Subscribe to:
POZ magazine
Newsletters
Join POZ: Facebook MySpace Twitter Pinterest
Tumblr Google+ Flickr MySpace
POZ Personals
Sign In / Join
Username:
Password:

Back to home » Archives » POZ Magazine issues




Table of Contents

Talking 'Bout Their Generation

Youth to Youth

Bargaining Power

Growing Up in Public

Liver Worst

Family Tree

Blood Lines

S.O.S.

To the Editor

And on the 7th Day...

In the Sack

Vertex Vortex

Pump and Grind

Baby Gap

You Can’t Touch This

Aloe Can You Go?

Death by Bureaucracy

Bubonic Tonic

Say What

Say What

All Apologies

Plenty of Nothing

Rough Cuts

POZ Picks

Spin and Needles

No Miss Manners

HIV Confidential

Making a Scene

Obits

Presidential Nemesis

Are the Kids Alright?

Kid Gloves

Prime-Time Lives

Don’t Make Me Over

Confessions of a Jerk

Life Lessons

Quality Time

Valuable Kitchen Tool

Better Safe Than Sushi

The Heart of the Matter

To C or Not to C

The Circle Game

Youth on Drugs

Uncertain-teens

Making the Grade

Finger on the Pulses

Fountain of Youth

Where to find it

Reality Check

Leftovers



Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle

Shingles

Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV


email print

September 1998

HIV Confidential

by Arthur S. Leonard

Undercover at your job? Watch those interoffice memos!

Since the late 1980s, when states passed HIV confidentiality laws and courts ruled that information about a person’s serostatus is covered by the constitutional right of privacy, activists have argued that people with HIV have a right to control who knows and who doesn’t know, in bed and at the water cooler. Recent  proposals at state and federal levels to mandate names reporting to public health officials of all those who test positive have raised urgent questions of confidentiality for the future. But what about right now? While you’re busy fighting Big Brother, you also might want to keep an eye on your boss.

Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, people with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations (workplace modifications, schedule adjustments) that may be necessary for them to perform essential job functions. But courts have ruled that employers kept in the dark about a worker’s HIV status have no duty to provide those accommodations.

Some courts have taken an employer’s right to information even further. In a ruling denied review by the U.S. Supreme Court, an appeals court in Philadelphia held that a public transit authority did not violate the privacy rights of an employee—we’ll call him John Poz—when the agency learned of his HIV status through a review of drugs being used in the company’s payment plan.

Mr. Poz, who tried to keep his status secret, confided in the agency’s doctor in order to get approval for coverage of AZT. The doctor kept the information confidential, as he had promised. But when the agency head asked the drug company to supply a list of prescriptions filled under the insurance plan, the drug company sent a list that matched employee names with particular drugs. Guess whose name was next to a known HIV med? When the doc told Mr. Poz that the boss knew he was on an “AIDS drug” the cat was out of the bag—and into the courtroom.

A jury awarded the employee substantial damages for violation of privacy, but the appeals court swiftly reversed the judgment. Although the court found that HIV-related information is protected by a right of privacy, it argued that privacy is not absolute and that the employer should be entitled to have that information to monitor insurance usage. Since Mr. Poz did not lose his job or suffer any tangible loss, the court denied him the money that the jury wished to award him for the violation of his privacy.

If you read the fine print in state HIV confidentiality laws, you will see that they are no more absolutely protective of confidentiality than is the U.S. constitutional right of privacy. These laws allow disclosure of information in a variety of circumstances, sometimes—but not always—on court order. Some state laws specifically allow doctors to violate confidentiality in order to alert a spouse or sexual partner that somebody is HIV positive. Many of the laws also authorize courts to order a release of HIV-related information when it becomes relevant in a lawsuit. And some states specifically allow HIV testing of children up for foster placement or adoption and authorize the release of that information to prospective parents. This recent “unblinding” of HIV testing of newborns effectively ends total confidentiality for newborns and their mothers.

Actually, when you think carefully about how HIV-related information can be relevant to a host of decisions, entitlements and obligations, the question of HIV confidentiality begins to look much too complex for a rigid, absolute policy. But the battle must continue to protect the dignity and well-being of people with HIV by restricting such information to the tightest possible “need to know” circle.




[Go to top]

Facebook Twitter Google+ MySpace YouTube Tumblr Flickr Instagram
Quick Links
Current Issue

HIV Testing
Safer Sex
Find a Date
Newly Diagnosed
HIV 101
Disclosing Your Status
Starting Treatment
Help Paying for Meds
Search for the Cure
POZ Stories
POZ Opinion
POZ Exclusives
Read the Blogs
Visit the Forums
Job Listings
Events Calendar


    dhsd777
    san diego
    California


    Newhopenate
    New Hope
    Pennsylvania


    TaintedloveDC
    Washington
    DC


    clintonjrsyr
    syracuse
    New York
Click here to join POZ Personals!
Ask POZ Pharmacist

Talk to Us
Poll
Are you a regular coffee drinker?
Yes
No

Survey
Pop Watch

more surveys
Contact Us
We welcome your comments!
[ about Smart + Strong | about POZ | POZ advisory board | partner links | advertising policy | advertise/contact us | site map]
© 2014 Smart + Strong. All Rights Reserved. Terms of use and Your privacy.
Smart + Strong® is a registered trademark of CDM Publishing, LLC.