Groups Allege Calif. Agency Shared HIV Patient Data
September 13, 2010
In what they termed a "gross affront" to patient confidentiality, three legal groups slammed California health officials for giving personal information about thousands of HIV-positive welfare recipients to a nonprofit HIV service provider.
AHF President Michael Weinstein said the foundation sought to recruit clients for a statewide outreach, education, and case management program for low-income people with HIV under a contract it has with the state.
But ACLU staff attorney Elizabeth Gill said California specifically prohibits the release of patients' identifying information to third parties. Sharing a person's HIV status without permission or authorization for public health purposes is a violation of state law punishable by civil fine of up to $25,000. "This is the most sensitive medical information out there," said Gill.
Due to difficulties it faced in recruiting patients, AHF sponsored a bill in the Legislature this year that would have allowed the health department to share all the information it has about welfare recipients being treated for HIV. The bill never made it out of committee.
Weinstein accused the legal groups of "trying to protect people's rights by depriving them of care." AHF is one of the largest U.S. providers of HIV/AIDS care.
However, "There isn't an exception in the privacy laws simply because someone might think the third party would be friendly to the patient," said Lambda Legal's Peter Renn.
09.10.2010; Lisa Leff
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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