An HIV-positive inmate sued prison officials for the negligent disclosure of his HIV status. Finding that the disclosure violated New York Public Health Law § 2782, the court found that the inmate was entitled to statutory damages, even though the disclosure was inadvertent and was not motivated by malice. This decision demonstrates that even where a violation of an HIV confidentiality law is unintentional, the person or entity responsible for the disclosure will still be held liable. However, a compensatory damages award will depend on the inmate’s ability to present expert testimony as to the consequences of the disclosure. Despite holding the prison liable, the court found that the inmate was not entitled to compensatory damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress because the inmate, by relying exclusively on his own testimony regarding the negative health impact caused by the unauthorized disclosure, failed to demonstrate that the disclosure unreasonably endangered his physical safety. Needless to say, securing this type of testimony is extremely difficult for inmates, and virtually impossible for inmates without the assistance of outside advocates.
CHLP fights stigma and discrimination at the intersection of HIV, race, health status, disability, class, sexuality and gender identity and expression, with a focus on criminal and public health systems. As part of this work, we support movement building that amplifies the power of individuals and communities to mobilize for change rooted in racial, gender and economic justice. We do this through legal advocacy, high-impact policy initiatives, and creation of cross-issue partnerships, networks, and resources.