The Dept of Public Health & Your Privacy
Recently, performers have come to us with questions and concerns about how their personal information is shared between the clinics where they are tested, and the the Department of Public Health (DPH) in California. For example, the DPH may contact you if you have tested positive for a sexually transmitted infection (STI), and its important to understand what your rights are in this situation. We’ve put together the following Q&A to help clear up any concerns you may have, but please feel free contact us if you have additional questions or information you’d like to share with us!
Please also keep in mind that this information applies specifically to those being tested in California. If you’re in another state and have similar questions, you probably want to start by calling the department of public health in the area where you live to see if they can answer your questions.
Who has access to your personal information if you test positive? If you go into a clinic (such as Cutting Edge Testing or Talent Testing Services) for your 14-day full panel test and you test positive for (a) syphilis (b) gonorrhea or (c) HIV/AIDS, you can expect a few different people to get in touch with you. The clinics themselves (CET or TTS) will reach out to you so that you can treat the infection. This will help you to stay in good health, ensure that you can get back to work ASAP, and this will also help prevent passing the infection along. In the state of California, clinics are required by law to pass along your information to the DPH. While they will have your name, phone number and address they are required (thanks to HIPAA regulations) to keep your information private.
How will the Department of Public Health contact you if you test positive? Once the DPH receives information that you have had a positive test result, they will try to contact you by telephone, or even come to your house and leave a note if you are not home. If this happens, don’t be alarmed! The DPH is focused on stopping rates of STI and HIV infections, and they are required to follow up with you about the positive result. However, you are never required to answer their questions (more on that below…)
What kinds of questions does the DPH ask, and what kind of information do they want? The DPH will most likely ask questions about your sexual orientation, how many sex partners you’ve had, the contact information of recent sex partners, and they may also ask you to send them your negative test result once you have been treated. Again, you are not required to comply with their request for information.
What are your rights when speaking with the DPH? There are a few things worth mentioning if you are dealing with the Department of Public Health. First off, the information that they are gathering is not meant to harm you in any way. But if you feel uncomfortable dealing with them, you are never required to speak to them or answer their questions. If you receive a call or a visit from the DPH, we suggest verifying their identity. That means asking to see their identification (if you meet with them in person) or if you are speaking on the phone, ask for their name, contact information, or even have them send you their credentials. Also keep in mind that you are also not required to send them negative test results if you don’t want to – it’s up to you!
In sum – if you get a phone call from the DPH – don’t panic! While they may be doing their job, always remember that you get to choose whether or not you share your information!!