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ASO employee, HIV partner, unwanted disclosure
Aug 29, 2004

I am employed at a AIDS Service Organization. My partner of eight years is HIV positive, and in the past accessed some of the services of the the ASO. I do not work directly with any clients, thus there is no opportunity for duality even if my partner currently needed the services. Recently a case worker was terminated, and as a response to her discontent she forwarded information to the agency board informing them of my relationship with someone who is positive. I live in a small town that has yet to grapple HIV stigma issue fully, even within the ASO community. The board has expressed its misgivings about the employee who disclosed my information, and has continued to support my work and position with the agency. However, I feel that my private life has unduly been invaded due to these actions. Is there any legal recourse for this situation?

Response from Ms. Breuer

Oh, what a meanspirited thing for her to do! Yes, you have recourse against Fang the Former Employee. Every employer is required to appoint a HIPAA compliance officer. That person is in a position to follow through on a HIPAA violation, which this was. She could have subjected your employer to a hefty fine if she'd done this as an employee rather than as a "disgruntled."

I encourage you to ask your HR person or executive director who the HIPAA compliance officer is and set up a conversation with him/her about your rights. If that proves unsatisfactory (and it shouldn't), then request a conversation with your ASO's legal advisor. I don't recommend leaping to a lawsuit because it's so costly/draining/energy-wasting/unpredictable. But it's your call.

The board has misgivings???? The board could afford a presentation by the HIPAA compliance officer about this issue. They need to be crystal clear with the entire staff about not tolerating the abuse of other people's rights.

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