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Forced to Disclose HIV status at work
Jul 24, 2003

I was diagnosed with HIV in January of this year. I became very ill was hospitized. I am able to return to work but due to my nature of work my employer is requiring me to have a physical done in order to determine my fitness for duty. They (employer) have told me to have all medical records sent to a independate doctor for evaluation prior to my physical. This is no problem but my medical records will disclose to this doctor that i am positive. I will pass the physical but due to the nature of my job I am concerned that 1. this doctor will disclose to my HR that I am positive and 2. he may determine that i pose a risk to others or myself and recommend that I do return to full duty status.

I have no choice in revealing my records to this doctor. If i do not cooperate by releaseing medical records to him that can be used against me. I have decided i will not give consent for him to release information to my employer but the point of the evaluation is ensure i can perform my job task. If he recommends i can not then am not sure what to do.

Any advise would help...

Response from Ms. Breuer

When your employer send you to one of their docs for an evaluation of fitness to work, they are expecting a yes/no answer and information about any limitations, not a complete analysis of your medical condition. Yes, your records will reveal your status. But you can prevent problems (so much better than trying to clean them up!) by having a discussion with the physician about your HIPAA rights to privacy and your expectation that your HIV diagnosis will remain confidential. That will put the physician on notice that you have not disclosed to your employer, and if they find out, the physician was the source. Under new HIPAA rules, the fines for that are considerable.

If he determines that you pose a threat to others, insist on obtaining that in writing. Take it back to your HIV doc and ask his/her advice about how to proceed. Unless you are a surgeon, you pose no threat to others and any workers comp doc should know that by 2003.

The independent doc has no right to release your medical records to your employer. That person is hired simply to answer the question about whether you are fit to return to work.

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