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Patient Confidentiality Must Be Ensured-UNAIDS

In order to protect the almost 40 million men, women and children living with HIV from potential stigma and discrimination, the United Nations agency dealing with AIDS today released new guidelines to ensure that patient confidentiality is not compromised in the process of collecting and storing information on the virus.

UNAIDS Senior Technical Officer Eddy Beck said the Interim Guidelines on Protecting the Confidentiality and Security of HIV Information were developed through a workshop supported by the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

According to the guidelines, using data for public health goals must be balanced against the rights of individuals to privacy and confidentiality. Among the recommendations, they call for countries to adopt privacy and confidentiality laws.

Some of the main recommendations from the guidelines include:

* Health data needs to improve health and reduce harm for all people. Policies, procedures, and technical methods must be balanced to protect both;

* Individual and public rights must be balanced, and should be based on human rights principles;

* Within countries, privacy and confidentiality laws should be developed and put in place; relevant parameters of privacy or confidentiality laws must be reviewed and known by all persons accessing health data;

* The development and review of laws and procedures related to HIV information needs active participation from relevant stakeholders, including people living with and affected by HIV, health care professionals, and legal and ethical experts.

Funding organisations should comply with these guidelines and make funding available to implement them.

Maintaining security and confidentiality must be a condition for funding.

Together, stigma and discrimination constitute one of the greatest barriers to dealing effectively with the epidemic, according to U
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