Illinois Law Requiring Officials To Report Identities of HIV-Positive Students Could Be Amended
A lawmaker in Illinois has proposed a bill (H.B. 0154) to amend a current statute that requires state or local health officials to report the names of HIV-positive students to school principals, the Daily Journal reports. The standing law also allows principals to reveal to school nurses the identity of HIV-positive students, as well as to reveal to teachers that there is an HIV-positive student in their class but not the identity of the student. State Rep. LaShawn Ford (D), the bill's sponsor, said the standing law has created privacy issues for the families of HIV-positive students. Parental consent is required for a person to review a student's health records, according to Annette Tyler, a registered nurse at Kankakee Junior High School.
The Illinois House rejected a similar bill to revoke the standing law in 2008. Rep. Shane Cultra (R), who voted against the 2008 bill, said the current law is acceptable if principals use discretion when reporting students' health information. However, Wendy Kelly, executive director of AIDS Project Quad Cities, said that the law could discourage testing if people are uncertain about where their health information will be disseminated. She said that young people must continue to use education and testing to address the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, adding, "There's still a stigma, but the adolescents are more open about it than the adults. They can actually tell you more about how HIV is transmitted." According to state Department of Health data, there are 500 HIV cases reported among people younger than age 19, with 164 cases of AIDS reported among the same age group.
Kimberly Lisanby-Barber, principal of the Lincoln School in Spring Valley, said that principals must perform a balancing act between confidentiality and public safety. Illinois is one of five states requiring disclosure of a student's HIV-positive status to school officials under the 1987 law that is under debate. Sheila Grogan -- a regional president for the Illinois Association of School Nurses for DuPage, Will and Kankakee counties -- said a requirement that compels school officials to know how to prevent the spread of HIV makes the 1987 law outdated. She said, "Overall, people are more aware now about communicable diseases. Risk factors are much more well-known and understanding of AIDS itself has grown." Federal law requires all school workers to annually review steps for the handling and disposal of fluids, according to the Journal (Lee, Daily Journal, 2/24).