Confidentiality and HIV/AIDS

Confidentiality and HIV/AIDS

What happens when our client is HIV+ and says his or her partner is unaware of the HIV/AIDS status?  Are we supposed to tell or not?  What about confidentiality?  What about “Duty to Warn”?

Many clinicians are unsure about the rules of confidentiality if a client is HIV+ and has a partner who is unaware of their HIV status.  For many years, we were not allowed to breach confidentiality regarding HIV status under any circumstances; however the law has changed to allow the therapist to use his or her discretion about whether or not to inform a partner of an HIV+ client.

 Following is a brief summary about the law regarding confidentiality and your clients who are positive for HIV/AIDS:

  • The law leaves the decision about whether or not to tell a partner of an HIV+ client up to the discretion of the therapist; however SHOULD YOU DECIDE TO TELL, THE LAW SAYS YOU SHALL FOLLOW PROTOCOLS FOR INFORMING AN HIV+ CLIENT’S PARTNER THAT YOU MUST OBTAIN FROM THE FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH.
  • ‘Duty to Warn’ has NEVER EVER applied to HIV cases in the State of Florida. HIV had its own legal track and many of the laws were different and many of the laws did not apply.  Again, ‘Duty to Warn’ has NEVER applied to HIV in Florida.
  • When the law says you are immune from civil and criminal liability, that DOES NOT mean you cannot get sued. If you get sued and can prove that you met any legal parameters, then the person suing you will not win.  In the case of sharing someone’s HIV status with his/her partner, the legal parameter is that you must follow the protocols from the FL Dept. of Health.
  • If you are sued, you must be able to prove that you followed those protocols. The only proof is your progress notes in the client’s clinical record.  Document, document, document!!!!!

 ~ The above information can be found in Florida Statute 456.

If you need help understanding what this may mean, we can help. AA Ross Counseling has an approved 3-hour online course that provides an overview of HIV/AIDS and covers statistics, HIV transmission, testing, information about opportunistic infections, and prevention.

Sign up for the HIV/AIDS Course  

For more information, contact the Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling at 850-245-4474 or visit