InSight: Protecting Public Health Privacy
By Benjamin Brooks
In the face of many challenges to our public health systems, the DC Council is fighting back against distrust and injustice with a new bill. Introduced by Council Chair Phil Mendelson at the request of Mayor Bowser, Bill 24-0207, the HIV/AIDS Data Privacy Protection Amendment Act of 2021, ensures that the public health information about a person’s HIV diagnosis cannot be used in civil or criminal legal cases without their consent. This is an important step to help people living with HIV to feel that they can trust public health with their sensitive information.
HIV is highly stigmatized and continues to be criminalized in many states throughout the nation. Access to testing, prevention, and treatment continues to be a struggle for many people due to barriers like stigma, the perceived cost of treating HIV, and fear of rejection.
While we work at Whitman-Walker to end the stigma around HIV (and to end the spread of HIV) we are encouraged to see that the District government is taking a positive role in protecting people living with HIV from the negative impact of HIV stigma and criminalization. When we do finally end the spread of HIV, it will be because of efforts to treat people living with HIV with dignity and respect.