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Helping a Friend
Apr 27, 2004

I am a case manager for a non-profit organization and a counselor has informed me that a client with whom i am assigned to work with is HIV positive. What should I be concern about personally and professionally.

Response from Ms. Breuer

Great question. I wish I had pages and pages for an answer. Can you hold on a minute while I wring the other counselor's neck?

1. The counselor who spoke with you has violated the client's privacy unless the client gave the counselor permission to tell you. Your first obligation is to learn why the counselor told you and whether s/he understands the possible legal actions and fines involved if the client were to find out and file a complaint outside the agency. Unauthorized disclosure in the workplace is the premier reason for HIV-related lawsuits. The complainants almost always win.

2. Until the client tells you about his/her HIV status, you don't really know it.

3. Your first obligation is to protect your client's privacy and to practice non-discrimination. Change nothing about the way you treat the client: continue to show respect, protect privacy, and deal with the client professionally.

4. You are not at risk at all, unless you are sharing needles or having sex with the client. I say that not to insult your professionalism, but to make the point. You are not at risk at all.

5. Please review the HIV basics information on this site so you're sure you understand why you are not at risk. Learn all you can, so that if your client does someday disclose his/her HIV status to you, you can be prepared and can respond with compassion, knowledge and support.

Please know that you are always welcome to return here with a question as this relationship unfolds. This is why we're here.



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