An update on how NSW Health manages our health information, including HIV, to provide us with the most appropropriate and up-to-date care.

Now that HIV is a chronic, life-long, treatable health condition, it is important that our health professionals have access to information so they can provide us with the most appropriate and up-to-date care.
 
Many times, there is a need for clinicians, nurses and other NSW Health staff to be aware of our HIV status when managing conditions that may not appear to be directly related to HIV. This can include drug and vaccine contraindications, implications of a compromised immune system for surgery or other procedures, and assessment of psychological care and support needs.
 
HIV and Your Privacy
Since September 2017, information regarding your HIV status has been available to all clinical staff who are providing care, treatment or counselling to you even if the care does not relate directly to your HIV status. This includes all NSW Health medical staff at any NSW public hospital or health facility, your GP, and private health services.
 
As with all patient health information, there remain strict controls to safeguard our privacy such as the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002 and the Public Health Act 2010. NSW Health staff can only view, access or use your health information when it is directly relevant to your treatment and care, on a ‘need to know’ basis. Serious penalties apply to staff who inappropriately access your information, including disciplinary action and potential criminal charges.
 
My Health Record
For people living with HIV (PLHIV) who have a My Health Record (MHR), you can control the levels of privacy on your MHR, what goes into your MHR and who can see this information. If you have a MHR and don’t want information or records from a particular doctor or hospital visit to be included in your MHR, you will need to tell the doctor, nurse or staff member at the beginning of your appointment. You can also manage your privacy settings in your MHR directly or even choose to cancel your MHR.

Public Health Orders
In rare cases, when voluntary measures are not followed to prevent a public health risk, public health orders can now ensure testing, treatment, and contact tracing is carried out. An example would be if someone living with an infectious disease is not engaging in ‘reasonable precautions’ to prevent the spread of the infection to others. Public health orders are issued only as a last resort.
 
Reasonable Precautions
NSW Health considers that reasonable precautions against the spread of STIs (including HIV) are:

  • taking a prescribed antibiotic course for bacterial STIs; or
  • use of a condom; or
  • for HIV, having an HIV viral load of less than 200 copies/mL, usually resulting from being on effective treatment; or
  • for HIV, seeking and receiving confirmation from a sexual partner that they are taking HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP); or
  • for hepatitis B, seeking and receiving confirmation from a sexual partner than they are immune to hepatitis B (e.g. vaccinated or previously infected).

If you want support or have other concerns about your privacy or disclosure of your HIV in a clinical setting (hospital, doctors appointment, accident and emergency ward, etc) you can call one of the Positive Life Treatments Officers on 9206-2179.
 
More Information:

If you have privacy concerns please contact the Privacy Contact Officer in your Local Health District. See: Privacy contact officers.

For further information about the MHR, visit www.myhealthrecord.gov.au or telephone 1800 723 471.

page updated May 2019

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