HIV (HUMAN IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS)/AIDS, (ACQUIRED IMMUNODEFICIENCY SYNDROME), AND OTHER BLOOD-BORNE INFECTIONS
Students with HIV/AIDS infection have the same right to attend classes or participate in school programs and activities as any other student. HIV/AIDS can be transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, through blood-to blood contact (such as the sharing of injection drug needles and syringes), and from an infected woman to her baby at or before birth. A large body of research has demonstrated that HIV is not transmitted through casual contact, such as in a school setting. Therefore, except in very rare cases, there is no legitimate public health reason to exclude students with HIV, AIDS, or other blood-borne infection from attending school.
The student’s parent(s) or guardian(s) are the gatekeepers of information relating to the student’s HIV/AIDS status. They are not obligated to disclose this information to the school. It would be beneficial for the school nurse to be informed in the case of a communicable disease outbreak that the parent(s) or guardian(s) of the immunocompromised student be informed immediately. In the case that a student’s parent(s) or guardian(s) or physician discloses to a school nurse that a student is infected with HIV/AIDS, this information is kept strictly confidential. Further disclosure of a student’s HIV/AIDS status requires specific, informed, written consent of the student’s parent(s) or guardian(s). The Massachusetts General Laws, C.111, Section 70F, protects against the nonconsensual release of medical records (including school health records) that contain such information.
The statutory requirement applies specifically to health care providers. However, case law in Massachusetts and other states leads to the conclusion that other school staff members beside health care providers may be liable for civil damages in the event on nonconsensual disclosure of information related to HIV status or AIDS diagnosis. Information about an individual’s HIV/AIDS status should be treated as highly confidential, and released only with specific, informed, written consent of the student’s parent(s) or guardian(s).
Gardner Public School staff are trained in universal precautions annually. Universal precautions should be practiced in all situations that involve blood or body fluids of any student or staff member. A number of serious infectious diseases may be spread by contact with human blood. Among these blood-borne infections are the Hepatitis B virus and HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). People can harbor the blood-borne illnesses for many years without actually having symptom and/or knowing that they are infected. Consequently, any student that bleeds uncontrollably should not have routine contact with other individuals in the school setting. As a public health measure, students who exhibit the following conditions should be advised not to attend school until such time as these conditions are resolved:
1.If a student has weeping or bloody skin or mouth sores that cannot be successfully covered or contained;
2.or, if the student exhibits biting of an unusual frequency or severity that would be accompanied by the potential of actual transfer of blood from the biter as might happen only from a student with chronically bloody gums or mouth. These conditions are grounds for the exclusion of any student from a school setting, regardless of whether she/he is known or suspected to harbor a blood-borne infection.
[Reviewed: September 2003]
[Revised: October 2015]
LEGAL REF.: MGL, C.111, Section 70 F