California health officials violated state privacy laws by giving personal information about thousands of HIV-positive welfare recipients to a nonprofit group that serves people infected with the virus, three legal groups alleged Thursday.
The ACLU of Northern California, Lambda Legal and the AIDS Legal Services Alliance fired off an angry letter to California Department of Health Care Services director David Maxwell-Jolly demanding an explanation for what the groups termed "a gross affront" to patient confidentiality.
Norman Williams, a health department spokesman, said staff members and lawyers have reviewed the situation and do not see a problem. The records released to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation did not include the patients' HIV status or the names of their doctors, medications or insurance carriers, he said.
"We provided very limited information to AHF about certain beneficiaries, and that was to be used for the purpose of contacting individuals to let them know they were eligible for these additional services," Williams said. "We believe our actions comply with the law."