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Legal obligation to disclose mentally-ill brother's HIV status?
May 11, 2005

My brother is HIV positive. He is also mentally ill. He does not disclose that he is positive to anyone. Am I legally obligated to tell any of the women he dates if I have contact with them (family get-togethers, etc.) that he is positive. Morally I am, but legally must I? Am I liable for not having disclosed this information if he infects anyone? I await your reply.

Response from Ms. Breuer

One of my clients is a provider of public benefit mental health services. They focus on teaching the HIV-positive client the importance of safer sex, disclosure and responsible behavior. Are you in a position to talk about this with anyone who functions as a counselor to him?

No, you are not legally obligated to disclose his condition to anyone. As to moral obligation, that's a far more complex question, often based on the assumption that she's not protecting herself. I'd encourage you to think about discussing safer sex if anything, not your brother's status. His diagnosis does not change his privacy rights, to my best knowledge. I encourage you to talk with a licensed provider of mental health services about how s/he normally handles this issue. Not knowing your brother's particular diagnosis, I can't suggest anything more specific. And I've had great help from licensed mental health professionals on tough questions like this.

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