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Forced HIV Disclosure by Random Drug Testing?
Feb 3, 1999

I work as a police officer, hence random drug testing is part of the job. I do feel, however, that my department's approach to listing all current meds taken is woefully lax. Can you point me to any legal references in such matters that could assist in having this issue tightened up in my department? I am hoping that it won't come down to a lawsuit having to show damage by this practice, it's stressful enough dealing with the HIV.

Response from Ms. Breuer

To respond to your question, I contacted the Personnel Division of the most responsible municipal employer I know on this issue, a small city here in California. This is what I learned from them: 1. If your concern is that the medications you take might show up in a random drug testing, my sources all said that is highly unlikely. Some over-the-counter medications may show up, such as Nytrol or some cold medications, but that's because some contain alcohol. (You probably already know that a poppy seed roll could trigger a drug test as well.) But antiretrovirals and protease inhibitors won't. And HIV only shows up when a direct test for HIV or its antibodies is done. In most states, you cannot be tested for HIV without your consent. Your pharmacist can tell you whether anything else you may be taking--beyond the drugs that fight HIV itself-- could trigger a drug test.

2. As to listing all medications you're taking, since you're a sworn officer, I want to refer you to someone who deals with this particular issue all the time. My sources recommend Shelly Spielberg of the Police Officers Standards and Training office in Sacramento, CA. I do not know which state you live in, but POST would know of parallel organizations in other states. Shelly's direct line is 916.739.3882.

3. The offficials in the city with which I spoke, which has had HIV-positive sworn officers, suggest that your bargaining unit is the best source of advice on how to handle the "listing of medications" question. Confidentiality of medical information is extremely important and is the reason that cities in this area do not do random drug tests or medication lists. Ask your bargaining unit how your confidentiality is maintained when you complete one of those forms: who sees it? how is it stored? is its purpose only to find drugs that might interfere with your performance? if not, I would question the legality of the policy.

I am not aware of any HIV-related court cases that set a precedent on this matter, but it would be worth contacting an HIV-knowledgeable attorney at an AIDS service organization to ask. I wish you well. Your job is demanding enough without this intrusion.

Nancy Breuer



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