• Article on Sex-Assault Accuser’s HIV Status Shows Need for Strong Privacy Laws

    May 18, 2011
    Contact: Nicole Collins Bronzan
    Director of Communications
    (212) 243-1313 / ncollins@lac.org

    NEW YORK, May 18, 2011 – The Legal Action Center joins other New York advocates for people living with HIV/AIDS in expressing dismay at today's terribly inappropriate media speculation about the possible HIV status of the accuser in the sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund. Setting aside the facts of the criminal case, it is a tragedy that the accuser is now facing scrutiny over personal information – whether she has HIV – that should never have become an issue in the case.

    New York State was the first of a number of states to pass HIV confidentiality laws in the 1980s precisely to protect against the kind of harm done by the New York Post article published today, “Accuser in IMF Strauss-Khan hotel case lives in apartment for AIDS victims.” The release of information related to the accuser’s possible HIV status certainly violates the spirit of this law, if not its letter.

    From the beginning of the epidemic the Legal Action Center has witnessed the devastating effects of the stigma related to HIV/AIDS; it’s one of the key reasons we pushed for years to get confidentiality laws passed in the first place.

    Sadly, three decades later, this case illustrates the need for the privacy these laws are meant to secure, said Sally Friedman, LAC’s legal director. “This woman has been victimized twice -- first by forced sex, if the allegations are true, and then by the disclosure that she may live in HIV housing,” Ms. Friedman said. “This stigmatizing gossip is bound to cause tremendous additional harm. The press and others should respect the privacy of this highly personal information.”

    Update! Our advocacy partners weigh in:

    The Legal Action Center is the only public interest law and policy organization in the United States whose sole
    mission is to fight discrimination against and protect the privacy of people in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction,
    individuals living with HIV/AIDS, and people with criminal records.

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