While much has improved since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, people with HIV still face stigma and potentially seismic fallout if their status is disclosed without their permission.
One client, Samuel Jr., was referred to Legal Council when he faced a violation of his right to medical privacy. Samuel’s health challenges meant he required some medical equipment in his home. In an attempt to reach out to Samuel, the medical goods company sent a letter revealing his HIV status to his father’s home, despite the fact that Samuel had never lived there and was not associated with the address. Samuel shared a name with his father, who opened the letter, and when reading it learned his son’s HIV status for the first time. By sending the letter to the wrong person, the program had violated the Illinois AIDS Confidentiality Act, which sets out financial damages for such breaches of HIV confidentiality.
Samuel’s parents did not take the news well, and aside from giving him the letter, they had not spoken to him for months when he connected with Legal Council. After discussing his options, Samuel opted to work with Legal Council to demand compensation for the violation of his rights.
Fortunately, Legal Council was able to secure a monetary payment in damages and an apology for Samuel. While financial compensation cannot reverse social and emotional damage, Samuel was thankful to receive an acknowledgement and apology for the harm he endured. Our advocates will continue to defend the rights of people living with HIV to privacy and the autonomy to share their status only when they choose.