Outside Publication

Discretion to Warn Balancing Privacy Rights with the Need to Warn Unaware Partners of Likely HIV/AIDS Exposure

Boston College Journal of Law & Social Justice
Vol. 35 Issue 1

April 2015

HIV/AIDS, an epidemic that continues to claim thousands of lives annually, disproportionately affects homosexual males, racial minorities, and low-income individuals.

When HIV/AIDS first emerged in the 1980s, the virus was clouded by great fear, misinformation, and stigma. Although stigma persists, research and treatment of HIV have so advanced that the virus may be managed and treated with medicine so long as it is caught early. HIV/AIDS prevention and testing strategies must balance competing concerns of both patients’ rights to confidential test results with the public health good of notifying individuals who are unaware of likely HIV exposure. The current HIV law in Massachusetts fails to account for the public health good of notifying individuals who are likely infected and unaware of their status. In response to this public health need, the Massachusetts Legislature should amend its current HIV law to grant physicians discretion to notify partners who have likely been exposed to HIV. Maryland’s law on HIV testing and partner notification provides a sound model for the legislature’s consideration.

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