Cases of willful exposure reveal the existing and future risks to the public health (especially women) which may be presented by individuals who willfully expose others to HIV through unsafe sexual or needle-sharing behaviors. In response to a documented case of willful exposure, a PCRS counselor or other public health official may, in his or her professional judgment, decide to act to avert a legitimate public health threat to known or unknown persons in the community. Yet handling such cases raises difficult issues in law, ethics, and public health practice. Public health authorities may be unable or ill-equipped to successfully control risks of this type for several reasons: (1) they may lack sufficient resources to properly investigate these cases; (2) they may lack knowledge or jurisdiction over the individual who willfully exposes others to HIV once his behaviors extend into other communities; and (3) they are bound to maintain the confidentiality of sensitive information they obtain from PCRS. How do health care workers and public health departments balance the duty to maintain the privacy of public health information related to PCRS against their obligation to fulfill a partner's right to know of their exposure to infection? What are the legal powers and duties of public health departments to protect the health and safety of individuals as part of their mission to protect the public health? What is the role of the criminal law concerning persons who may intentionally or knowingly attempt to infect others with HIV or other communicable diseases?
23 Women's Rts. L. Rep. 45-62 (2001)
Scholarly Commons Citation
Gostin, Lawrence O. and Hodge, James G. Jr., "Handling Cases of Willful Exposure Through HIV Partner Counseling and Referral Services" (2001). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. Paper 96.