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Dr. Samuel L. Seward, Assistant Vice President and Medical Director of Columbia Health responds to a Letter to the Editor published in the September 20 issue of The Eye.
September 25, 2012
The September 20th issue of The Eye included a Letter to the Editor commenting on confidential HIV testing provided through GHAP. I write to address several inaccuracies in the letter. GHAP Advocates are held to strict levels of confidentiality, undergoing a semester-long training which includes formal confidentiality training – the same confidentiality training that each of our medical staff receives and required by federal HIPAA regulations.
GHAP is one of several options Columbia students have to complete HIV testing. Students, who for any reason are not comfortable completing their testing through GHAP are provided other options for doing so, both on- and off-campus. Only professional clinical staff employed by Columbia Health collect the actual samples, run the HIV test, return positive test results, and provide needed follow-up care. Advocates do not perform any of these; it is not their role. What they do provide, and in excellent fashion, is the pre-test counseling, often finding the precise means – because they are also students and have none of the "white coat" accoutrements that can make doctors intimidating – to meet GHAP clients precisely where they are at and address questions and concerns that might not otherwise be raised.
Final word: GHAP advocates have no access to identifying information about HIV-positive students at Columbia.
Samuel L. Seward, Jr., MD, FAAP
Assistant Vice President and Medical Director
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