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How to Fill Out Questionaires/Health Forms for + Children

Aug 8, 2012

I am part of an adoption support group for parenting HIV+ children. I know that parents do not have to disclose their child's status if they choose not to. On health forms (for day camps, church nursery, school, sports teams, etc.) I know that we can leave certain blanks empty or write N/A. What about actual checklists (at an ER for a child just getting quick stitches for example, or any other type of form that asks for a yes or no answer about HIV status)--is it acceptable to lie and check "no"? There is also the question of school forms and such that don't ask about status, but often ask for a list of current medications. Can we say "none" or "N/A"? It would not be hard for someone to discover a child's private HIV status by the medication names. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Response from Ms. Douaihy

Dear Writer,

Thanks for the inquiry. The topics you raise bring into play several different laws, and there is no easy answer. I would therefore strongly advise you to obtain legal advice from a lawyer in your state, and carefully consider the risks and benefits of your choices.

I will start by saying that you are mostly correct with respect to disclosure. Generally speaking, parents do not have a duty to disclose their child's HIV status to the public. There is, however, a generally recognized duty of a patient to reveal her HIV status to her treating physician. Therefore, if your child is admitted to a hospital, say for emergency treatment, I would advise you to disclose your child's status in that instance.

You ask further whether it is acceptable to omit your child's medications on a school form checklist. In that circumstance, you do have a right to privacy. Clearly, there are reasons why it may be medically advisable to tell the institution charged with caring for your child about your child's medications, so I would recommend talking to your child's doctor about when disclosure of prescriptions is medically advisable.

For your edification, I must also advise you of risks (albeit, marginal) for knowingly misrepresenting a child's HIV status to an institution (eg a school, a sleep-away camp). Civil or criminal liability may--in very limited circumstances--befall a parent who knowingly fails to disclose the HIV status of his child IF that child transmits or reasonably exposes another child/person to HIV.

Critically, whenever you disclose your child's HIV status to a school, a hospital or other "covered entity" under the federal privacy rule (HIPAA) or anywhere else pursuant to a written authorization form, that entity is prohibited from re-disclosing the information. The law protects you and your child's rights to confidentiality when you disclose HIV status to a school, and that right is taken seriously.

Good luck. I wish you and your entire support group the very best!

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