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High Court rules that teenager's HIV need not be disclosed to young woman

The case was taken by the Child and Family Agency.

The Fourt Courts in Dublin.
The Fourt Courts in Dublin.
Image: Getty Images

THE HIGH COURT has decided that it would not be justifiable to disclose the confidential medical information of a young man with HIV to a young woman without his consent.

The decision has been taken in a case brought by the Child and Family Agency (CFA).

The young man is under 18 and has been in the care of the CFA for a number of years.

The CFA says it believes that the young man and young woman are having unprotected sex.  The young man denies this and says they are close friends but have never had sex.

He has had HIV since birth.

The young woman is also under 18 and is not aware of the case being taken by CFA.

The ruling was delivered last month but was published online yesterday. It described the order being sought to breach the individual’s confidentiality as “unprecedented in the Irish courts”.

The court determined that the appropriate test to apply to determine whether patient confidentiality should be breached is whether:

on the balance of probabilities, the failure to breach patient confidentiality creates a significant risk of death or very serious harm to an innocent third party.

In this case, the High Court determined that this test was not passed to justify the breach of confidentiality.

The court decided that the CFA had not established on the balance of probabilities that the young man was having unprotected sexual intercourse with the young woman.

The court also found that even if the young woman was having unprotected sex with the young man and assumed all the risks that are associated with unprotected sex, the court’s view was that the risk of HIV infection in such circumstances was somewhere in the region of 0.04%.

This was based on medical evidence which stated this could be reduced by the use of condoms.

The court concluded that if the two were having sex, which is denied, the man would have have to fail to take his antiretroviral drugs consistently for the woman to contract HIV.

The court also noted that HIV is not a terminal illness and found that there is “no risk of death or very serious harm” to the young woman.

The court also found that in this case the young woman is not “an innocent third party”.

“Not in a moral sense, but in the sense that she is willingly undertaking the risk of contracting communicable diseases by having unprotected sex,” ruled Justice Michael Twomey.

Read: Man (21) who threatened cafe staff with a syringe during robbery jailed for three years >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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