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Is Spouse legally responsible to reveal other Spouse's HIV status?

Apr 10, 2012

Spouse was diagnosed with HIV over 18 years ago, and has been "undetectable" for many years. The number of people who know this info. are very few, and spouse is very hesitant to reveal status to people locally. A lab tech from a local lab had to take some blood for a recent health issue, that was not HIV-related. Unfortunately, Spouse has been familiar with this person and their family for many many years. I do not believe that this person took "universal precautions" when performing said draws, although it appeared that no needle sticks, etc., occurred and the draws were completed without incident. Yet, because of the familiarity with this person, my spouse would not reveal their status. My question is, as the other spouse, am I legally responsible to reveal my spouse's HIV status, in situations like this, especially when I know that my spouse will not? Can I get in any trouble if I don't?

Response from Ms. Douaihy

Dear Writer,

Thank you for writing in.

You do not have the legal duty to disclose your spouse's HIV status. Your spouse, on the other hand, may have a duty to disclose his medical condition to a treating physician. In at least one state (New York), a court has held that a legal duty exists requiring patients aware of their HIV-positive status to disclose their condition to a treating physician. Common law duties like this differ from state to state. To learn more about the legal duties for HIV positive persons that may exist in your state, I advise you to contact a legal services provider specializing in HIV/AIDS representation. Below I have enclosed a link to the American Bar Association's pro bono attorney resource map.

Your spouse does not generally have the duty to disclose his status to other doctors he may visit, like his podiatrist, for example. This is because health care workers are supposed to employ universal precautions on every patient they work with. Because stigma and bias tragically still persist against people with HIV, it is understandable why your spouse may not wish to disclose. And, privacy is his right! Please know that if your spouse discloses his status to a medical facility pursuant to a written HIV release form, the facility's staff members are obligated by law to maintain his confidentiality. Good luck to you and your husband.

American Bar Association Pro Bono Attorney Map

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