This is a very difficult but interesting dilemma.
What should you do?
I would be emotionally tempted to tell, but as a professional I must surpress my personal instinct and protect my patient’s privacy at all costs. It is my professional ethics and obligation to safeguard the privacy of my patients. Therefore, I would not tell my friend and I would pretend that I don’t know the person in the EMR.
Can you tell your friend?
I cannot. Having HIV is one of the most sensitive patient information. Disclosing it would violate my professional code of ethics and national data protection law. I may be put on trial from both criminal law and civil law persepectives and I will 100% definitely lose my job.
Can you interfere with other people or family issues?
In general, all healthcare workers should stick to their roles. For example, if a son makes medical decision for his father as a medical proxy, a doctor should respect whatever decisions he makes instead of commenting anything about what he “thinks” the son should do. For the same reason, as someone who handles EMR, it is our role to process the information, not to leak it or to gossip what others have when we get this information. We need to have the highest respect for people’s agency and autonomy, and it is unprofessional to interfere with others as if the patients are our friends.
Should your friend not know about this because she might be at risk?
My friend should know about this and it is certainly worrying that she doesn’t know about this. However, it is the husband’s moral obligation to tell his wife, and it is my moral obligation to protect patient’s privacy. The fault and responsibility therefore lie with the husband, not me.
How will you follow the fundamental principles about right to self-determination, doing good and doing no harm?
By not disclosing it to my friend, I am essentially honoring the principles about right to self-determination, as I am allowing the husband to choose to tell his wife or not. I will not consider this as “doing harm”, as non-disclosure would not be a form of harm. If my friend ended up contracting HIV, the responsibility lies with the husband, and it is the husband who does harm.
Isn’t it your obligation and the right of the subject to hold the information?
Yes, it is my obligation as a professional to uphold patient privacy at all times