Key features of Washington state’s HIV reporting legislation

Confidentiality

• Local and state health department officials may not disclose name specific HIV data unless specifically required to by federal law or authorized by written patient consent.

• Purposes for which local and state health officials are authorized to use name-specific HIV data are the notification of persons with substantial exposure, including sexual or syringe-sharing partners, referral of the infected individual to social and health services, and linkage to other public health databases, provided that the identity or identifying information for the HIV-infected person is not disclosed outside of the health department.

• Public health databases do not include health professions’ licensing records, certifications or registries, teacher certification lists, or other employment rolls or registries, or databases maintained by law enforcement officials.

• All health department employees with access to HIV-identifying information shall be required to sign confidentiality agreements. The agreements will be renewed at least annually and make reference to the criminal, civil, and administrative penalties for violation of state laws regarding confidentiality.

Local health officers

• Existing rules require the local health officers to notify the principal health care provider before initiating a case investigation by the local health department. Under the revised rules, the local health official cannot contact the HIV-infected person directly without considering the recommendations of the principal health care provider on the necessity of and best means for conducting the case investigation, with two exceptions — when the principal health care provider cannot be identified or reasonable efforts to reach the provider over a two-week period have failed.

• Local health offices must ensure that anonymous HIV testing is "reasonably available."

• Under the old rules, HIV-identifying information could be used for contact tracing only to contact sex and injection-equipment sharing partners. The revised rules add to acceptable contacts "persons who have experienced substantial exposure."

• Local health officers may link HIV-identifiable information to other name-based public health disease registries "when doing so will improve ability to provide needed care services and counseling and disease prevention."

• Local health officers must destroy case report identifying information on asymptomatic people within three months of receiving a complete case report.