ACLU Testifies Against Controversial HIV Regulations Proposed by Puerto Rico Health Department

Affiliate: ACLU of Puerto Rico
February 20, 2002 12:00 am

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Saying it will violate individual privacy and endanger public health, the American Civil Liberties Union today testified against a raft of new HIV regulations proposed by the Puerto Rico Health Department that would, among other things, require people to disclose the names of their sexual partners to the government.

“If these regulations are enacted, HIV will spread more quickly in Puerto Rico,” said Michael Adams, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s AIDS Project who testified at the administrative hearing set up by the health department in the wake of heavy criticism over its proposal.

“Attacking the rights of HIV-positive individuals is an awfully misguided approach to public health,” Adams said. “It will discourage people from being tested for HIV while doing nothing to help reduce the spread of AIDS.”

Under the regulations proposed last week, patients who test positive for HIV must send the health department a list of all their sexual partners, along with the partners’ addresses and telephone numbers. Failure to comply will result in a fine of up to $5000. The new measures also authorize the health department to force any person it suspects of carrying a sexually transmitted disease, including HIV, to submit to a blood test.

No state has ever adopted or seriously considered these regulations because they would hamper the fight against AIDS, according to the ACLU. Besides, the ACLU added, they are unconstitutional, expensive and impossible to enforce.

The proposal also creates a mandatory name reporting scheme that requires hospitals and medical laboratories to send HIV-positive lab results to the government. It also applies to other sexually transmitted diseases including syphilis, gonorrhea, vaginitis, herpes-simplex type II, hepatitis, chlamydia and genital warts.

“Study after study shows that mandatory name reporting discourages people from being tested for HIV,” Adams said. “When you tell people that their test results will be shared with government officials, it is not surprising that they will choose not to be tested.”

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