Kentucky HIV lawsuit reinstated

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com December 10 2002 12:00 AM ET

An appeals court in Frankfort, Ky., reinstated a lawsuit on Friday against a doctor who revealed that a patient is HIV-positive to his employer. The Kentucky court of appeals said it was a mistake for a lower trial court to summarily dismiss the patient's invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against Julio Melo, MD, an infectious disease specialist.

The patient, who worked at a Louisville veterinary clinic, was HIV-positive when he developed a severe infection from a cat bite. Because he had filed a workers' compensation claim, Melo sent his bill to the employer. Notes attached to the bill revealed that the patient was HIV-positive and that he had once been treated for colon cancer.

State law requires that a patient's HIV infection be kept confidential--with very few exceptions that do not include employers. The appeals court ruled that Melo could have omitted the reference to HIV on the bill. The lawsuit now returns to the trial court.