Massachusetts High Court Upholds State HIV Privacy Law
Massachusetts' highest court ruled yesterday that a man whose blood was splattered on police officers during his arrest is protected by state law from having to reveal his HIV status, the AP/Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports (AP/Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 2/16). While responding to a domestic disturbance call last month, police officers shot Luis Ortiz, and eight officers came in contact with his blood during a struggle that ensued (Ring, Springfield Union-News, 2/15). A District Court judge initially ruled that Ortiz must reveal his HIV status to police, but Ortiz filed an emergency appeal to postpone the order, pending the high court's decision. Supreme Judicial Court Justice Martha Sosman emphasized in her ruling that "state law prohibits the disclosure of anyone's HIV status unless the person allows it," noting that the state Legislature has repeatedly voted down amendments that would allow police or other public safety officials to "supersede the law against disclosure." Ortiz' attorneys "argued" that state law intends to encourage people to be tested for HIV because they are "assured of confidentiality." However, Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Dunphy Farris argued that the state law should be used on a "case-by-case basis" and that Ortiz' privacy rights "must be secondary to the need to prevent the spread of a disease to the officers" (Ring, Springfield Union-News, 2/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.