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It’s Time for Illinois to Smarten Up

Here’s a remarkably stupid bit of Illinois law that has annoyed and incensed us for about 20 years: school principals across the state must be given the names of HIV-positive students in their schools.  Furthermore, principals must disclose the names of those students to school superintendents.  And principals may identify those students to school nurses, teachers, and certain other staff who have a “need to know.” Why oh why does some school superintendent need to know that 11-year-old Johnny has HIV?  Why does his algebra teacher?  Considering that we know with absolute scientific certainty that HIV is not transmitted through daily contact at school, why does anyone in a school need to know? Why is Illinois the only state in the union that requires the names of HIV-positive students be turned over to school administrators? This idiotic law has long been defended but...

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Cleaning Up Your Social Media

We often gets calls from people who tell us someone has disclosed their HIV status on Facebook.  Or Twitter.  Or MySpace.  Or any of a number of social media sites.  Is there anything you can do if this happens to you? We’ve put together a handy-dandy guide to protecting your confidentiality on all the major social media websites.  Don’t believe us?  Well you can read it for yourself right...

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Communicable? Not Anymore … And Never Really Was

Here’s a call we get with some regularity.  Someone gets a new job, and the employer presents a form that has to be filled out.  The form asks if the employee has any “communicable diseases.”  Oy gevult. Now, if you’ve got, say, bubonic plague, your employer would need to know.  But HIV?  Unless you’re a porn star or a prostitute (hey, we don’t judge), you’re not going to put anyone at risk for HIV through your routine job functions.  So do you have to disclose your HIV status if your employer gives you the dreaded communicable disease questionnaire? Well, if you live in Illinois, the answer is a clear-cut “no.”  Why?  Because the Illinois Department of Public Health does not include HIV and AIDS on its list of icky conditions that are “communicable, infectious or contagious.”  Instead HIV and AIDS are properly deemed to be...

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Stupidity Never Pays

Wrap your brain around this one. A pharmaceutical home delivery company dropped off our client Maria’s medications at a neighbor’s house — and right there visible on the packaging were the dreaded letters “HIV.” Maria wasn’t home when the medications were delivered. She is very protective of her confidentiality, and she had asked the delivery company not to leave the medications with neighbors. Nonetheless, the delivery company did just that. The medications were in a clear plastic bag, and visible inside the bag was a sheet printed “RN Copy of Physician’s Orders.” That sheet listed “HIV” and “severe neutropenia.” Worse still, Maria had contacted the delivery company several weeks earlier, because she did not like the fact that the paperwork included with her medications revealed her HIV status in a way that anyone could see. She explained her concern...

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Why You’re Glad You’re Not a Teenager Anymore

We got a call this morning that really got us thinking about the difficulties of facing HIV as an adolescent. Theresa called with concerns about her godson, Gerard. Gerard is 16 and has been HIV-positive since birth. Theresa has known about his status for his entire life, and when Gerard’s mother died she took him in for several years. Theresa knew that Gerard has had a steady boyfriend for the past year, and yesterday while she and Gerard were hanging out in her kitchen she asked him if he had told his boyfriend about his HIV status. Gerard said he had not, and added that they always had protected sex. Theresa asked Gerard if he was afraid to tell his boyfriend about his HIV status, and he said he wasn’t; he just hadn’t gotten around to it. So Theresa...

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Think Before You Blurt

And you thought doctors were supposed to be smart… Brian was hospitalized for a week last August. One day his friend Cheryl was visiting him when a doctor walked into his room. She introduced herself as the allergy specialist, and she’d come to check for any allergic response to the medications he’d been given. Then she said, ‘The HIV specialist will be in tomorrow to monitor you as well.’ Cheryl didn’t know Brian had HIV until the doctor unthinkingly blurted it out. As you might imagine, Brian was quite upset at the doctor’s disregard for his privacy. He filed a grievance with the hospital. The hospital acknowledged the doctor’s mistake and apologized. That wasn’t enough to convince Brian that this wouldn’t happen again to someone else. So he contact us. We interviewed Cheryl, confirmed the story, and determined that...

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