Confidentiality Fears may Lead to HIV-Positive Patients to Forego Treatment, Study Says
HIV-positive patients may forego treatment to maintain the confidentiality of their HIV status, according to a report published in the August issue of AIDS Care. Reuters Health reports that researchers from Duke University studied 15 HIV-positive patients from rural North Carolina and determined that most study patients "experienced or knew someone who had experienced a breach in confidentiality," according to lead researcher Dr. Kathryn Whetten-Goldstein. "Two types of breaches occurred," she noted, adding that there were "obvious" breaches -- such as "a nurse who told her child that her patient was HIV-positive out of concern that her child would play with the patient's child" -- and more "subtle" breaches, which some doctors may not consider to be breaches. The latter type of breach may involve providers releasing a patient's HIV status to other providers without the patient's consent. Whetten-Goldstein said that the law allows providers within the same institution to share information on HIV status, but requires patient consent to share information with different institutions. Further, HIV-positive patients in the study felt that breaches of confidentiality should be punished and that the system "should regulate itself," fearing further exposure of HIV status if outside regulators became involved (Brown, Reuters Health, 8/27).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.