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Partner notification and domestic violence issues
Nov 17, 1999

I recently tested positive for hiv at a local clinic . The clinic called a partner identification program and they asked me to list my former partners . I left out my last partner because he has a history of violence and if the Board of Health is knocking on his door he will come question me .This is a very dangerous situation . Can I get into some kind of legal trouble for withholding his name ? Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place .

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question.

My answer will be limited to what is done in the United States, since procedures may differ in other countries. When a person tests positive for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), it is important that their partners be notified that they were exposed to HIV or another STD for two reasons:

1) A person needs to be aware that they were exposed so that they can be tested, and if necessary, treated for the infection.

2) The exposed person can be counseled so that steps can be taken to prevent further spread of the disease (for example, educating the person about safer sex).

When we notify partners about a possible exposure to HIV or another STD, this is known as contact tracing or partner notification.

In a case such as yours, your local health department can notify your partner for you WITHOUT your partner knowing it was you who named them as a contact. All your partner would be told is that someone, somewhere in the United States tested positive for HIV, and that they were named as a contact. This partner would NOT be told your name, nor any identifying information about you. This will protect your privacy, and in your case, your safety as well. I suggest that you discuss this issue with your local health department so they can notify your partner about his possible exposure. I also suggest that you tell the health department that this person has a history of violent behavior (so that steps can be taken to ensure both your safety, and the safety of the health department officials who notify him).

If you still do not want to tell the health department about this partner (because of fears for your personal safety), this is very understandable, and in some instances, it may actually be better not to have this partner notified. Again, discuss this issue with your health department and very often, they will understand your concerns and your hesitancy in having this partner notified. They may even be able to refer you to local agencies to help you in being a victim of domestic violence (see below).

If you do decide to give the health department this persons name, although your partner will NOT be told your name or identifying information about you, he may still assume or guess that you were the person who tested positive and try to contact you about it. If this does occur, you have several options:

1) Hang up on him if he calls you. If he comes to your house, do not hesitate to call the police immediately.

2) Speak to a counselor about ways to handle the situation if it does occur. If you were a victim of domestic violence, counseling is an important way to help you cope with everything that has happened.

3) Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

From your question, I do not know if you are male or female. If you are female, there are many resources available to you to help you cope with being a victim of domestic violence (the hotline number above can provide you with many of these resources).

If you are male and this was a Gay domestic violence situation, there are usually very few options and help available to you. Unfortunately, domestic violence in the Gay community is virtually never discussed. Gay domestic violence is sadly much more common than many members of the Gay community realize. If this was a Gay domestic violence situation, I have written information specifically on the issue of Gay domestic violence that may interest you. I will be glad to send this information to you by e-mail (nvhotline@aol.com) if you are interested.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).



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