Q. Who needs to know that a student or employee has HIV infection?
A. There is no need for anyone at school to know the HIV status of pupils or employees. What everyone does need to understand is that the blood of any student or employee could potentially be infected with a bloodborne pathogen such as HIV or Hepatitis B and that under normal conditions in regular educational programs, use of universal precautions is sufficient to protect against transmission of bloodborne diseases. Schools are required to help school staff understand and maintain this minimal risk through written procedures and staff training. Under federal OSHA rules at 29 CFR 1910.1030 and New Jersey PEOSH, school district must provide annual inservice training and ready access to the necessary protective equipment to those who have been identified as at-risk of exposure to blood under the school district Exposure Control Plan. Additional instruction of students in universal precautions and first aid procedures assists school staff in implementing this policy.
Students, their parents or guardians, and employees are not obligated to inform school personnel regarding their HIV status and cannot be required to do so in accordance with state regulation and statute. School staff with knowledge of the HIV status of others in the school is not at liberty to share that information with others without specific written consent.
Q. How do records related to the HIV status of students relate to other records maintained by the school?
A. While not required to do so, some parents or students may share HIV status information in order to obtain health care or educational support. Records and information regarding the HIV status of a student may be shared only with the written consent of the student’s parent or guardian and only with those who need to know in order to determine the educational program for the student. Good practice calls for a consent form that specifies the individuals to be informed by name and by title. HIV status may not be required as part of a school’s student health screening or medical examination requirements.
The standards for maintaining confidentiality of records which identify the HIV status of an individual are established in N.J.S.A. 26:5C, and exceed those established for district student records or health records. Therefore, any such record should be maintained separately from educational or health records and be released only with written consent or under conditions allowed in the statute. Identifying records could include the written consent form, referral letters from health-care providers, child study team evaluations, or medication records. Should the identified student transfer to another school, the HIV identifying records should not be transferred automatically with other health records. Rather, a plan and written consent for transfer should be established with the student and parent.