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U.S. News

Missouri: HIV Alert at School Gets Mixed Reviews

October 17, 2008

Some people are praising St. Louis County health officials for recently notifying parents and the public about an HIV exposure risk among Normandy High School students, following a routine investigation into one HIV-positive diagnosis. But others are questioning the aggressive, high-profile response.

The county Department of Health investigation led to concerns that an undisclosed number of students could be at risk for HIV. On Monday, the parents of Normandy students received letters alerting them to the situation and offering HIV screening for students. On Wednesday, DOH publicly issued an alert, and it held a meeting with parents that evening. DOH also plans to conduct HIV testing at the school.

"This is the first time we've seen anything like this," said Kyle Farmer, director of school law for the Missouri School Boards' Association. Safeguarding students' privacy is extremely critical, he said.

"If someone shared needles or had other blood exposure you would think you'd be able to identify that population of students that were at risk," said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

"When you don't know what you have, then you have to draw the widest perimeter possible," said Lynne Beckwith Jr., former University City District school superintendent and now a professor of urban education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Schools have no standard protocols for handling this type of situation, said Michael Herbert, chief of the bureau of HIV/STD/Hepatitis at the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

CDC recommends voluntary opt-out HIV screening in medical settings for all patients ages 13-64. Recently, Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals began offering HIV tests to most emergency room patients.

Back to other news for October 2008

Adapted from:
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
10.17.2008; Blythe Bernhard, Nancy Cambria, Steve Giegerich

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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