- Information about a person’s HIV or AIDS status is ‘health information’ and is protected by State and Territory privacy legislation or, in some jurisdictions, by specific legislation on the management and disclosure of HIV-related information.
- Health professionals, including public health authorities, have a general duty to protect the confidentiality of individuals’ personal health information. In general, this information is able to be shared with others who are involved in the provision of care, treatment or counselling of the individual, if such information is required in connection with providing that care, treatment or counselling.
- In managing people with HIV whose behaviour places others at risk, the protection of confidential health information can assist in ensuring that individuals are able to remain in the community and retain personal and other support structures that enable safe behaviours. The protection of confidentiality in small communities, including rural communities or within cultural groups, can be especially important if the individual is to be stabilised and is to remain living within those communities.
- Limits to the protection of confidential information operate in circumstances where a duty to a third party is owed. State and Territory health authorities should ensure that health care workers have access to guidance on the appropriate circumstances and mechanisms that allow for the disclosure of health information where such disclosure is required for the management of HIV public health risk.
- In circumstances where a State or Territory public health authority has reasonable suspicion or knowledge of travel planned or undertaken to another jurisdiction of a person who is subject to management at Level 2 or above under these Guidelines, the Chief Health Officer or equivalent should take steps to notify the inter-jurisdictional Chief Health Officer, equivalent, or delegate, of the client’s HIV status, any Orders made and necessary case information, including information that allows the identification of the case, to enable effective public health follow-up.
Referral to Police (See also Section 4 – Levels of Management – Level 5)
- State and Territory Health Departments should have in place with local relevant Police agencies agreed protocols for the exchange of information to ensure appropriate health and law enforcement responses.
- The referral of information to the Police should be made by the Chief Health Officer or equivalent, always with legal advice:
- immediately where there are clear grounds for a charge involving intentionally causing serious bodily harm; or
- after further examination and / or intervention, of unwillingness to alter behaviour that recklessly or negligently endangers or causes serious harm.
Such referrals should usually be made after consultation with the Chair of the HIV Advisory Panel.
- Referrals to Police should also be made if a serious crime (for example, rape, child sexual abuse, or child pornography) has been identified in the course of the public health investigation or intervention.
- Consideration of the referral to Police for investigation and possible prosecution under the Crimes Act or other relevant Act may be made at any Level of public health management under these Guidelines.