A blockbuster over at The American Independent:
Not-so-confidential HIV testing
by Todd Heywood
The Michigan health department has been secretly collecting information on people who test for HIV at federally funded clinics. For a decade.
Since 2003, the Michigan Department of Community Health has been secretly collecting the names, dates of birth, risk categories, and other demographic information of people submitting for confidential HIV testing at grant-funded locations throughout the state and storing them in a massive database, a months-long investigation by The American Independent has discovered.
The database also includes the coded identities of people who have been identified as sexual and needle-sharing partners of persons living with HIV.
The state says this database is necessary to track the number of tests conducted using federal grants, as well as to determine reach and success of targeted testing programs designed to draw in people who are at high risk for HIV infection.
While MDCH claims the database does not contain personally identifiable information, a recent study, published last month in the University of California Press’ journal Social Problems, has found that some Michigan local health departments with access to the database are using it to pursue both civil actions – known as “health threat to others” actions – and criminal prosecutions against people living with HIV.
The study, authored by University of Michigan Ph.D. candidate Trevor Hoppe, found that the database has been used specifically to identify and target sexual or needle-sharing partners of newly diagnosed HIV-positive persons where the infected person may not have disclosed his or her status to partners, women who are HIV-positive and have become pregnant, and HIV-positive persons who have been diagnosed with other sexually transmitted infections.
All of this raises significant questions of privacy, civil liberties experts say.
“There are certainly privacy rights involved, particularly when clients are not being told that the information they are providing is being put in a database which can be utilized to assist with criminal prosecution of people living with HIV,” said Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan LGBT Project. “It’s ironic that in its effort to try to prevent transmission of HIV as part of the HIV-testing process, this policy and practice will likely discourage people from being tested, because they fear criminal prosecution for having knowledge of their HIV status.”
The rest at The America Independent here.