A bill guaranteeing the privacy of AIDS patients passed the House Monday, but not without strong opposition from some lawmakers who said the bill is philosophically flawed.
Rep. Ted Lewis, D-Salt Lake, opposed the measure, saying Utah must treat the AIDS issue first as a medical problem, then as a civil rights issue. "I struggle with the fact we are treating it as a civil rights problem and then as a medical problem," he said.Other lawmakers opposed the bill because it would hinder criminal investigations and harm the life insurance industry.
HB6 would amend state laws pertaining to communicable disease records, forbidding state or local health departments to release an individual's records - even upon court order.
The bill clarifies for the State Department of Health how information on AIDS patients can be released to protect the patients' privacy, while protecting the public's health. The bill itself requires that the identity of persons reported to have communicable diseases be held strictly confidential.
Exemptions to the law include disclosure to other health agencies in order to prevent transmission of the disease; in the case of minors, identities may be disclosed to the Division of Family Services; or in cases involving child sexual abuse, the information may be disclosed in a judge's chambers, but must be sealed by the court at the conclusion of the proceedings.
The identity of a disease victim also may be disclosed to next of kin upon the victim's death, or at any time with the victim's written consent.
Rep. Joseph Moody, R-Delta, the bill's sponsor, said it was an amendment that would have permitted the information to be released to insurance companies that caused the governor to veto the bill last year.
State regulations currently require physicians to report actual AIDS cases, but not patients who test positive for HIV.
The bill passed by a 55-15 margin and now goes to the Senate.