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Patient Confidentiality & Work Place
Nov 9, 2000

I currently work for Duke University and I am also seen as a patient. Recently a co-worker, who previously worked in the clinic, but now works in my area began asking me questions about where I went to school. She was attempting to determine if she knew me. She then ask me if I knew a particular individual in the clinic where I am seen. She indirectly identified me as a patient of the ID Clinic in front of all of my co-workers, some who have worked in this environment for 20 years and more and have friends who will find out just that type of info. Needless to say there are rumors that have started and I requested a transfer without revealing why I wanted the transfer. I also contacted the clinic and informed them of the breech.

After no results in my attempt to transfer out of my current position, I had a meeting with the director of human resources. I informed him of what happened and why I wanted to transfer. Mean while, the department that I am working in has had enormous amounts of departures from employees. He informed me that he had a request from the department head over where I currently work to deny all transfer request for now, due to the lack of employees. He suggested sensitivity training. I refused! I told him this would only validate this issue. He is supposedly working on this. He is trying to delay my transfer due to the departments needs without any regard for my rights as an employee and private information. I did not disclose my personal health information, their employee did.

Do I have any options other than quitting?

After no

Response from Ms. Gabriel

Yes! You do have other options. I understand your anxiety with the idea of having "sensitivity" training. It is a very normal response. However, a good workplace HIV education program will actually help. You indicated that rumors have been circulating. Could these rumors be out of concern? Are they founded in fear or ignorance? What you are experiencing right now is bound to happen in a workplace that has not had education about HIV or how to deal with it at work. The rumors are out there - whether or not anyone really knows your status - and ignoring them will not stop them. Transferring (which doesn't seem to be an option at this time) will not guarantee that your new work environment will be any different and will leave the situation for the next employee suspected of having HIV to endure.

You have a tremendous opportunity to bring education to your employer and co-workers. Seize this opportunity. The Positive Workplace conducts workplace education nationwide - you may contact us at You may also contact the National AIDS Fund ( or the CDC's Business Responds to AIDS Program ( All three are very good resources to help you choose a program that you'd be comfortable brining to your workplace.

Good luck and keep us posted!

Lynne Gabriel

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