A Person’s HIV Status Should Be Kept Private and Confidential, Say Health Officials

Basseterre, St. Kitts, February 10, 2021 (SKNIS): A person’s HIV status is categorized as personal medical information and deserves the right to be kept private and confidential at all times, said health officials on Wednesday’s (February 10) edition of ‘Working for You.’

Responding to a question concerning the disclosure of a patient’s status, Dr. Mathias Ofre, National HIV/AIDS Programme Coordinator reminded the caller that such an act is a breach of confidentiality, adding that the laws of the land prohibit the disclosure of medical records.

“Different countries have different rules and regulations and it is ideal that we abide by the rules and regulations and laws of the land. So, if the laws of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis do not permit us to [disclose] the status of patients, it is out of our line to disclose that because it is breaking the law. So, we cannot do that,” said Dr. Ofre.

The National HIV/AIDS Programme Coordinator said that the real fear should not be the known cases, but those who are unaware of their status and are spreading the virus.

“That is the fear because if you don’t know, how will you get to treat yourself and ensure that you have a long productive life?” he asked.

The caller also spoke to the act of persons who deliberately spread the virus. He noted that in some countries such behaviour is considered a criminal act. Lucine Pemberton-Vaughan, Health Educator/Counsellor, indicated that in those countries the “testing has dropped considerably because people know that there are criminal laws” and they refuse to come forward to get tested.

The health officials said that social stigma and discrimination can negatively affect the health and well-being of people living with HIV by discouraging some individuals from learning their status, accessing treatment and or staying in care. They noted that for all those reasons, protecting patients’ identity and keeping their records private and confidential is of significant importance.

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