Section 22-11A-38

Notification of third parties of disease; rules; who may be notified; liability; confidentiality; disclosure of information for certain criminal proceedings; penalty.

(a) The State Committee of Public Health is hereby authorized to establish the rules by which exceptions may be made to the confidentiality provisions of this article and establish rules for notification of third parties of such disease when exposure is indicated or a threat to the health and welfare of others. All notifications authorized by this section shall be within the rules established pursuant to this subsection.

(b) Physicians and hospital administrators or their designee may notify pre-hospital transport agencies and emergency medical personnel of a patient's contagious condition. In case of a death in which there was a known contagious disease, the physician or hospital administrator or their designee may notify the funeral home director.

(c) The attending physician or the State Health Officer or his designee may notify the appropriate superintendent of education when a student or employee has a contagious disease that endangers the health and welfare of others.

(d) Physicians or the State Health Officer or his designee may notify a third party of the presence of a contagious disease in an individual where there is a foreseeable, real or probable risk of transmission of the disease.

(e) Any physician attending a patient with a contagious disease may inform other physicians involved in the care of the patient and a physician to whom a referral is made of the patient's condition.

(f) No physician, employee of the health department, hospitals, other health care facilities or organizations, funeral homes or any employee thereof shall incur any civil or criminal liability for revealing or failing to reveal confidential information within the approved rules. This subsection is intended to extend immunity from liability to acts which could constitute a breach of physician/patient privilege but for the protections of this subsection.

(g) All persons who receive a notification of the contagious condition of an individual under this section and the rules established hereunder, shall hold such information in the strictest of confidence and privilege and shall take only those actions necessary to protect the health of the infected person or other persons where there is a foreseeable, real or probable risk of transmission of the disease.

(h) Notwithstanding the provisions of this section or any other provisions of law, the State Health Officer or his or her designee shall under the circumstances set forth below disclose such information as is necessary to establish the following: That an individual is seropositive for HIV infection, confirmed by appropriate methodology as determined by the Board of Health; that the individual has been notified of the fact of his or her HIV infection; and that the individual has been counseled about appropriate methods to avoid infecting others with the disease. Such information shall be provided only under either of the following circumstances:

(1) In response to a subpoena from a grand jury convened in any judicial circuit in the state, when such a subpoena is accompanied by a letter from the Attorney General or an Alabama District Attorney attesting that the information is necessary to the grand jury proceedings in connection with an individual who has been charged with or who is being investigated for murder, attempted murder, or felony assault as a result of having intentionally or recklessly exposed another to HIV infection where the exposed person is later demonstrated to be HIV infected. Prior to release of such evidence to the grand jury, such evidence shall be reviewed in camera by a court of competent jurisdiction to determine its probative value, and the court shall fashion a protective order to prevent disclosure of the evidence except as shall be necessary for the grand jury proceedings.

(2) In response to a subpoena from the State of Alabama or the defendant in a criminal trial in which the defendant has been indicted by a grand jury for murder, attempted murder, or felony assault as a result of having intentionally or recklessly exposed another to HIV infection where the exposed person is later demonstrated to be HIV infected, and, if subpoenaed by the State of Alabama, such material has previously been presented to the appropriate grand jury for review pursuant to subdivision (1), above. Prior to the introduction of such evidence in a criminal trial, it shall be reviewed by the court in camera to determine its probative value, and the court shall fashion a protective order to prevent disclosure of the evidence except as shall be necessary to prosecute or defend the criminal matter.

(i) Nothing in this section shall be construed to mean a physician, hospital, health department, or health care facility or employee thereof will be under any obligation to test an individual to determine their HIV infection status.

(j) Except as provided in this section, any information required pursuant to this article shall remain confidential.

(k) Any person violating any provision of this section or approved guidelines shall be guilty of a Class "C" misdemeanor.

(Acts 1988, 2nd Ex. Sess., No. 88-983, p. 708, §§1-9; Acts 1993, No. 93-341, p. 527, §1.)