Canada Requires People Who Might Have Exposed Emergency Workers To HIV To Undergo Blood Test

Armen Hareyan's picture

Officials in Alberta, Canada, last week announced a new law thatwill require people who might have exposed emergency workers to HIV orother infectious diseases to submit a blood test if ordered by a judge,the Edmonton Sun reports.

Underthe law, emergency workers -- including firefighters, police officersand paramedics -- who believe they have been exposed to HIV or anotherinfectious disease can apply to the court for a blood test (Kauth, Edmonton Sun,9/13). In addition, Alberta's chief medical officer will be able toaccess the medical records of people who might have exposed anemergency worker to HIV to determine if the worker is at risk for HIVor hepatitis (Myers, Calgary Herald, 9/13).

According to the Sun,suspects in two of 12 cases of potential exposure in Edmonton, Alberta,have refused to be tested for HIV. Steve Rapanos, head of emergencymedical services in Edmonton, said that 14 paramedics have hadpotential exposure to HIV since January (Edmonton Sun,9/13). Prior to the new law, there was no way to compel people whomight have exposed workers to HIV to undergo an HIV test or obtainaccess to their medical records.


The new law is a revisedversion of the Blood Samples Act, which was approved in 2004. Officialswere concerned that the original Blood Samples Act would not survive apotential legal challenge (Calgary Herald, 9/13). The law-- which follows similar legislation in Ontario, Saskatchewan and NovaScotia -- will go into effect Oct. 1, the Sun reports (Edmonton Sun, 9/13).


According to the Herald,the new law is being praised by some emergency workers and criticizedby some civil liberties advocates. Opponents of the law say thatprivacy concerns outweigh the peace of mind provided to emergencyworkers (Calgary Herald, 9/13). Health Minister DaveHancock said that the revised version of the law eliminates privacyconcerns because a judge must determine whether the person truly is atrisk of HIV or other infectious diseases. Officials said the new lawwill allow emergency workers to begin post-exposure prophylaxis soonerif they were exposed and will reassure them that they did not contractHIV if the person tests negative for the virus, according to the Sun.

Debra Jakubec, executive director at HIV Edmonton,said she is concerned that groups at high risk of HIV, such asinjection drug users and commercial sex workers, might be targetedinadvertently by emergency workers. Edmonton Police Chief Mike Boydsaid the law will make a difference in cases of potential exposure inwhich suspects refuse to be tested. The law also will apply to peoplewho voluntarily help others in emergency situations, according to the Sun (Edmonton Sun, 9/13).

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