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Michigan: HIV Notifications a Hoax; Health Department Fears Fake Visitors, Letters, Calls Will Hurt Credibility

April 4, 2011

The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) is warning residents of three recent reports of an impersonator giving false information about exposure to HIV and other STDs.

In one instance, a man claiming to be from KCHD knocked on a woman's door and said he was there to inform her of an STD exposure risk. Two other residents were told the same thing via a phone call and through a letter riddled with spelling errors. Deputy Health Officer Bill Anstey said the health department had to issue a similar alert about an impersonator last fall.

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KCHD takes patient confidentiality "very seriously," said Anstey. Staff members are required to wear an ID badge, and clients have the right to verify an employee's identity by examining the badge or by telephoning KCHD at 616-632-7171, he said.

Department officials are concerned the imposter's actions could deter people from getting tested for HIV or STDs. KCHD offers confidential, free HIV testing. When results are in -- regardless of whether they are positive or negative -- clients come to the health department at 700 Fuller Ave. "We never give out HIV status over the phone," said Anstey. "It's all done in person."

In addition, only a few KCHD staff have access to HIV records, said Anstey. HIV/AIDS data are held in a locked area of a locked records room which is in a locked storage facility, he said. All employees are trained on federal law regarding patient confidentiality, he added.

Administrative Health Officer Cathy Raevsky is urging residents who believe they have been contacted by an imposter to file a report with their local police department and telephone KCHD.

Back to other news for April 2011

Excerpted from:
Grand Rapids Press
03.30.2011; Sue Thoms




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