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Government Agency singles out people who are HIV+??
Mar 14, 2004

At the local welfare office, when a person who is known to be HIV+ applies for food stamps, daycare, medical, etc, their case is identified and given to a specific worker known to carry the HIV+ caseload. No special training has been given to this person. The HIV+ persons on the caseload have been being interviewed in a glassed in office with the door shut in the middle of the workplace. All other applicants for the same services are interviewed in a different part of the building. They have agreed to start asking the known HIV+ applicants if they would like a separate interview room from the general public, but ask no other applicants the same question. Could this be interpreted as against the law since they are singling out people with HIV when the status of their health does not effect benefit eligibility and doesn't need to be known?

Response from Ms. Breuer

This sounds like one of those policies intended to help recipients--have one person be the "expert" on HIV-related issues and have all HIV+ recipients served by that individual--that has an unintended bad outcome. I encourage you to write to the director/administrator of the local office and point out the unintended effect. If your note assumes that the effect is unintended, you're not accusing. You're bringing to his/her attention a privacy issue. Mention that the new regulations under HIPAA seem to make this practice especially risky. It's not necessary to change the entire policy, but it is necessary to provide this service with respect for confidentiality.



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