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AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome): Legal and Policy Implications of the Application of Traditional Disease Control Measures

NCJ Number
Law, Medicine and Health Care Volume: 15 Issue: 1-2 Dated: (Summer 1987) Pages: 27-35
W J Curran; M E Clark; L Gostin
Date Published
9 pages
Although there are compelling epidemiologic justifications for the compulsory reporting of known and suspected cases of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), these justifications do not support mandatory reporting of positive antibody status, contact tracing, or isolation or quarantine of infected persons.
Mandatory reporting serves the public health interest of determining the incidence and prevalence of a disease, but the reporting of positive HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)-antibody tests is not warranted, given data limitations and the probable disincentive it would provide for voluntary testing. Compulsory contact-tracing procedures raise privacy and confidentiality interests that could not be outweighed by the limited public health benefits that could be achieved given the nature of AIDS transmission. The general isolation or quarantine of infected persons would impose restrictions will beyond what is necessary to prevent transmission of the virus, and due to the inevitability of false negatives, it would not halt transmission of the disease. Moreover, because of the disease's long incubation period, most infected persons would have transmitted the virus long before symptoms of the disease were apparent. Practical considerations also make such a control measure untenable. 89 footnotes.