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dr. disclosed my status in a social setting
May 16, 2012

i'm curious about medical privacy laws and what they do and don't protect. I recently learned that my eye doctor told someone I was hiv positive in a non professional setting. this disclosure happened in his home when he and another guy were looking at profiles on a website when they came upon mine. my profile does not disclose any status and the doctor told this guy that i was positive. the guy told me that doctor was not mean about it, just imparting information, but it seems unprofessional to me. what do you think?

Response from Mr. Chambers

It sounds as if your doctor violated the portion of the federal HIPAA law that protects your medical confidentiality. It is generally prohibited under HIPAA for a medical provider to give information about your medical condition outside the treatment setting (such as consulting with another doctor) without a HIPAA approved authorization to release medical information signed by you.

Also, most states have laws protecting your medical information and many have special restrictions about releasing HIV status.

You may also want to consult a legal services agency in your area for more specific advice and assistance. There are severe penalties, depending on the seriousness of offense. This is especially true if you have suffered damages by the release of this information. There are many legal agencies specifically for people with HIV. There is a listing of HIV agencies on this site. this site.

At the very least, depending on your relationship with the disclosing doctor, you should either tell him or write him a letter strongly expressing your dismay and disappointment at his breach of your confidentiality and federal confidentiality laws and ask for his assurance that this will not happen again.

Good luck, Jacques



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