ACLU defends privacy in HIV reporting
D.C. Department of Health
825 North Capitol Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002
Re: Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
Amendments to Chapter 2 of 22 DCMR
Dear General Counsel:
The following are our comments on the Proposed Rulemaking to amend Chapter 2 of Title 22 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations.
A "Unique Identifier System" for reporting persons with HIV disease is necessary to ensure that persons who believe they may have been exposed to HIV will not avoid being tested for fear of having their medical records disclosed. Unfortunately, the proposed amendments undermine this objective by requiring that in addition to the use of the unique numeric code, the report must include the person's social security number.
Because of the widespread use of the social security number for other purposes, such as credit reports, it is relatively easy to obtain the name of an individual through the social security number. The preamble to the proposed rulemaking suggests that it is indeed the intent of the Department of Health to learn the names of persons reported to have HIV disease so as to "facilitate early contact of other persons who may have been infected." Whatever may be the public health value of such tracing, we believe that requiring persons to provide their social security numbers in order to be tested will substantially discourage testing and that this will prove more detrimental to public health. The reference to social security number in the proposed amendment of § 206.3 should be deleted. In the interest of public health, a legitimate Unique Identifier System should be established, one that does not undermine the privacy of persons with HIV disease.
Thank you for your consideration.
Mary Jane DeFrank
Executive Director ACLU of the National Capital Area
cc: Members of the Council
Mayor Anthony Williams