Legislation Pushes to Keep Students’ HIV Status Private
By Amanda Vinicky
HIV-positive students would no longer be outed to their school officials under a measure pending before the Illinois state Senate.
During the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, Illinois legislators passed a law that requires the state public health department to notify schools with the names of students who are HIV positive.
State Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) said times have changed.
"I think back then there wasn't a lot of information on HIV," Martinez said.
Now, school personnel are required to take precautions against infection whenever bodily fluids are involved.
Martinez said just like every other disease, it should be up to parents to decide whether to share with a nurse, principal or teacher if their child has HIV.
Ramon Gardenhire is with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. He backs a measure that would lift the disclosure requirement. The House approved the plan, as did a Senate panel.
“Those individuals who face having their status disclosed; once that bell was rung, you cannot unring it," Gardenhire said. "And discrimination that those students face is unparalleled.”
However, critics, like Sen. Jim Oberweis (R-Sugar Grove), point out that school officials are required to keep health information private.
“If a principal or a nurse is unlawfully disclosing this information that’s where the problem should be, address it there,” Oberweis said.
They say it is important that a teacher know if a student has AIDS, so extra precautions can be taken to keep the virus from spreading. Supporters counter that teachers ought to already be taking those precautions in every incident involving blood or bodily fluids.