South Dakota: Bill Would Loosen Health Department Constraints
January 28, 2003
The South Dakota Department of Health is seeking legal authority to alert prosecutors about people with HIV who are having sex without disclosing their serostatus. A state bill to allow notification was passed unanimously Friday by the House Judiciary Committee, sending HB1019 to the floor for additional debate. State Health Secretary Doneen Hollingsworth said the bill was prompted by last year's conviction of a Huron college student who had sex with his girlfriend without letting her know he was HIV-positive. Nikko Briteramos, the first person convicted in South Dakota of endangering another with HIV, received a four-year prison term.Adapted from:
Briteramos had learned he was HIV-positive when he attempted to donate blood, and health officials told him he must tell any sex partners he was infected. He was arrested later when health workers went to talk to him about also testing positive for an STD and a female sex partner who was unaware of his serostatus was seen sneaking out of his dorm room, legislators were told Friday.
The Briteramos case points out the need for a clear legal authority to alert prosecutors when people are suspected of intentionally exposing others to HIV, Hollingsworth said. "We need the ability, in very rare instances, to present that information to law enforcement when someone displays blatant disregard of public health statutes," she said.
HB1019 would allow the department to release otherwise confidential HIV information to prosecutors if ordered to do so by judges. The attorney general or prosecutors also could be alerted by health officials if they suspect someone has intentionally exposed others to HIV without telling them. Chuck Schroyer, executive director of the South Dakota State's Attorneys Association, said existing law already requires anyone with knowledge of a felony to report it to police.
Jennifer Ring, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union-South Dakota, said the bill would violate patients' rights to privacy and discourage them from telling their doctors if they suspect they have HIV.
01.24.03; Joe Kafka