Sanford: Schools should be notified of HIV cases

COLUMBIA -- The Department of Health and Environmental Control will continue to notify schools when a student tests positive for HIV/AIDS unless lawmakers override a veto by Gov. Mark Sanford.

Sanford vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have eliminated a state requirement that DHEC notify a school superintendent and school nurse when a student tests positive for HIV at any private doctor's office or health clinic in the state.

"In the interest of health and safety for all children, DHEC should continue to notify the proper school officials if a child has AIDS/HIV," the governor wrote in his veto message. "If anything, we would take this law a step further by adding two other highly contagious bloodborne diseases Hepatitis B as well as Hepatitis C."

The bill's sponsors say they will try to override the governor's veto when the General Assembly reconvenes later this month. Two-thirds of both the House and Senate would have to agree to override the governor.

S.C. Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Bamberg, says federal law prevents nurses and superintendents from sharing the information with other school staff, parents or students.

Thus, notification is pointless, he said. "They can't do anything with the information."

In his veto letter, the governor acknowledged federal law blocks schools from passing the information along. "But I see no reason that state law should codify this misguided principle that is now, indeed, codified at the federal level of law," he wrote.

Bill proponents say continuing to inform schools of a student's HIV status will discourage young people from getting tested.

"This (virus) is ravaging our communities, particularly African-American communities," Sellers said. "We don't need barriers that prevent people from getting tested."