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The Legal Limits of AIDS Confidentiality

William K. Natale, MD
JAMA. 1988;260(22):3273-3274. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03410220057012.
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To the Editor. —  Although the concept of privacy is hardly novel, it has developed in modern times into a complex and sometimes controversial body of law. Similarly, the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a disease of uncertain epidemiologic origin and history, only recently has become a major phenomenon in Western society. Thus, neither the notion of privacy nor the affliction of AIDS is fully understood by legal and medical professionals, and indeed our concept of both continues to evolve.It seems quite likely that the tension between legitimate confidentiality interests and the needs of society and potentially exposed individuals for disclosure of sensitive medical data as outlined by Dr Dickens1 will force further maturation of the doctrine of confidentiality. Dr Dickens is concerned that "too much in the law itself compels, justifies, and excuses disclosure of information,"2 and he clearly implies a need for new legislation to curtail


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