Target: Michigan Department of Community Health
Goal: Stop Michigan from secretly collecting personal information from people registering for confidential HIV testing
Earlier this year, HIV/AIDS investigative reporter Todd Heywood uncovered an unjust and disturbing practice happening in health clinics across the state of Michigan. For a decade, the Michigan Department of Community Health has been secretly collecting demographic and personal information on people who submit for confidential HIV testing at federally funded clinics. The type of information authorities have been compiling includes names, dates of birth, and risk categories. More alarmingly, some of this data has been reportedly used to build civil and criminal cases against HIV-positive individuals.
Michigan law requires federally funded agencies to provide anonymous testing, which replaces the patient’s name with a code, and confidential testing, where the tester is given the patient’s name and information. This information is then coded into a database.
The database includes coded identities of people who have been identified as sexual and needle-sharing partners of HIV-positive individuals, and the state claims this database is necessary as a way to track the number of tests conducted using federal grants. The MDCH claims this database does not contain information that can personally identify individuals, but an investigative study discovered that some Michigan local health departments have exploited their access to the database, using the information to pursue civil and criminal prosecutions against people living with HIV/AIDS.
Michigan’s harsh criminalization of HIV/AIDS must come to an end, and people living with HIV in the state must have their rights protected. The state also retains private information about individuals who test negatively for HIV and has not presented a convincing explanation for such actions. The state’s health officials should not be misleading patients about what happens to their private information when they undergo an HIV test.
Sign the petition below to urge the Michigan Department of Community Health to stop its unjust data-collection practice and protect the identities of Michigan residents affected by HIV/AIDS.
Dear Michigan Department of Community Health:
For a decade, many of your federally funded health clinics have been secretly collecting personal information on people who undergo confidential HIV testing. Misleading patients by secretly collecting data from confidential HIV test results must come to an end. This practice unjustly infringes upon patients’ rights and their privacy. You have a constitutional obligation to respect the privacy rights of people who choose to be tested for HIV.
Using this data to help build civil and criminal cases unfairly criminalizes HIV-positive individuals. Further, one of the goals of HIV testing is to prevent the transmission of HIV, but this policy works against that goal by potentially discouraging individuals from submitting to tests for fear of criminal prosecution.
The state must employ policies that ensure any data and information collected from HIV testing procedures is used appropriately. The data should only be accessed for legitimate reasons by health department officials. I urge you to make more stringent policies for who can access this information and to end the practice of secretly collecting personal information for use in prosecutions.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Marcello Casal JR/ABr via Wikimedia Commons