HIV-Related Stigma: Protecting the Confidentiality of Clients Living with HIV/AIDS, Carolyn McAllaster (adapted from a manuscript co-written by Allison Rice, Senior Lecturing Fellow, Duke AIDS Legal Project) (2012)

Guides (Legal or Medical)

This manuscript serves as a guide to help attorneys understand the importance of protecting the confidentiality of clients living with HIV and how to ensure adequate protection. HIV-related stigma has many negative consequences: it undermines public health efforts by adversely affecting preventative behaviors like condom use, voluntary HIV testing, and seeking appropriate healthcare; it diminishes the quality of care, and it affects the perception and treatment of people with HIV by communities, families, and partners. Much of HIV-related stigma is rooted in public misconceptions about transmission. The manuscript lists different categories of confidentiality breaches, including inadvertent breaches and breaches that occur during gossip. To protect client confidentiality, the manuscript suggests that one should never assume a client’s friends or family know that they have HIV, and that all paperwork or correspondence referring to a client’s HIV status should be carefully protected. Further, the manuscript also notes the importance of properly disposing of medical records, discreetness when discussing HIV, training staff to take the same precautions as attorneys to protect client confidentiality, and trying to protect the client’s diagnosis within the court system.