groups in New York State are demanding that the state health
department stop what they say is the illegal collection of
medical information from HIV-positive state residents.
The HIV Law Project, the New York Civil Liberties
Union, the American Civil Liberties Union, and South
Brooklyn Legal Services presented the demand in a letter
sent to the New York Department of Health.
The letter says
that since the health department issued a warning in
early 2005 about what it believed to be an HIV
"superbug" that rapidly progressed to an
AIDS diagnoses--which turned out to be a false
alarm--it has repeatedly overstepped its
authority by requiring reporting of patient data
regarding HIV care and treatment. The department claims
emergency circumstances necessitate the collection of HIV
treatment information and has extended the emergency
regulations for the collection of such data several
times since April 2005, the latest emergency
declaration being issued on April 18. But the advocacy
groups say the department is violating state laws that
protect medical privacy.
demands that the health department adhere to state privacy
laws and stop collecting patient data. If the department
continues to collect such information, the groups will
file a lawsuit to stop it, the letter states.
clearly has a responsibility to protect against the spread
of HIV, but that doesn't put it above the law," Cynthia
Knox, deputy executive director of the HIV Law
Project, says in a press statement. "The department of
health has used the false threat of an emergency to
undercut laws that were put in place to protect medical
privacy and allow people to make informed decisions
about their treatment."
is playing fast and loose with the law to illegally
collect medical information and keep people in the dark
about their medical treatment," Elisabeth
Benjamin of the New York Civil Liberties Union says in
a release. "HIV is still a very scary disease. People
deserve education and counseling to help them cope with such
a life changing diagnosis."