Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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AIDS/HIV Guidelines

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection (HIV)

Introduction

Wheaton College recognizes the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) as a serious public health threat. The College is committed to educating the Wheaton community about this problem and to providing an informed and educated response to questions raised by faculty, staff and students.

These guidelines have been developed from the recommendations of the American College Health Association and are based on the latest and most widely accepted medical knowledge of HIV. They are consistent with current Wheaton College policies, procedures and practices and are in compliance with federal and state legislation. They are presented here to enable members of the Wheaton community to understand how the College responds to the medical, ethical, legal, and administrative issues surrounding HIV infection.

General information

To date, three groups of people have been demonstrated to be at risk for contracting HIV infection:

  • Those having unprotected sexual intercourse (anal or vaginal) or oral-genital contact with an infected individual.
  • Those exposed to contaminated blood or blood products through needle sharing or transfusions of blood or blood products; or through needle stick, open wound or mucous-membrane exposure.
  • Infants infected by their mothers before, during, or shortly after the time of birth.

Since the recognition in 1984 of HIV as a distinct disease causing virus, it has become the most intensively studied infectious agent in the history of medicine. While many facts about HIV remain incompletely understood, its mode of transmission has been firmly established. The U.S. Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control, The American Red Cross, as well as scores of other nationally recognized health organizations have remained clear and consistent in their risk assessment. Studies of family members of persons with AIDS have shown no evidence of transmission, even after repeated, long term exposure. Thus, in the normal work place/academic setting there is no risk of infection through casual contact. More specifically, there have been no documented cases of the spread of HIV through such circumstances as insect bites, coughed or sneezed on; touching doorknobs, telephones, computers or other inanimate objects; participating in sports competitions; using restrooms, gyms, swimming pools, or eating in restaurants. The reason for this is that HIV can only survive inside living human cells (unlike the cold, flu or hepatitis viruses). Outside of the body, HIV is extremely fragile and dies very quickly. Live virus, in a dose sufficient to cause infection, must gain entry to the bloodstream or mucous membranes to cause HIV infection.

Nonetheless, because of the lethal nature of HIV infection, concern may arise among those who work, study, live, eat or play alongside a person infected with HIV. The College recognizes that these concerns need to be addressed and presents these guidelines in order to promote understanding of the issues surrounding HIV infection and to outline the approach the College takes with regard to cases of HIV infection in the Wheaton community.

AIDS education

The College recognizes that the primary institutional response to the epidemic of HIV infection must be education. The College provides a regular program of AIDS education for all members of the Wheaton community through events and activities sponsored by the Office of Student Life, the Office of Human Resources, and the Health Services. In addition, members of the faculty are encouraged to incorporate information about HIV and AIDS-related issues into appropriate courses.

Admissions and Hiring

Consideration of the existence of HIV infection is not a part of the admission decision for individuals applying for admission to the College, or part of the hiring decision for individuals seeking employment by the College.

Disabling Conditions

HIV infection and AIDS itself are considered disabling conditions. The College, therefore, makes reasonable accommodation for students and employees known to be disabled by HIV infection as required by law.

Attendance and Access to Facilities

Individuals who are infected with HIV may attend classes, events and activities and/or perform their usual duties at the College in an unrestricted manner as long as they are physically and mentally able to do so, subject to the same policies and regulations as govern all members of the Wheaton community.

Residential Housing

The College does not exclude students infected with HIV from living in College residence halls or houses as long as they remain in compliance with College policies and regulations. Under some circumstances, however, there may be reasonable concern for the health of anyone with a weakened immune system (of any origin) when those individuals might be exposed to certain contagious diseases (e.g. measles or chicken pox) in a high-density residential environment. These situations will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the Coordinator of Health Services. After consulting with affected students and their health care provider(s), the Director will consider requests from them for special housing arrangements.

Medical care

Student Medical Records

The personal health records required for matriculation at the College do not include questions concerning the existence of HIV infection; however, students with HIV infection are encouraged to inform their health care providers(s), including the Health Services staff, so that appropriate medical care, support, counseling and education can be provided. This, like all other medical information, will be handled in a strictly confidential manner in accordance with the procedures and requirements in effect at the Health Services.

Medical and Psychological Follow-up

Primary medical and psychological care for students with HIV infection is available through the Health Services and Counseling Services. As with other medical illnesses, referrals are provided for services beyond the scope of care available on campus.

Employee Records and Support Services

The personnel records required for employment by the College do not include questions concerning the existence of HIV infection. HIV infected employees are provided the same services available to all employees with serious illnesses and are entitled to the full protection of the College's sick leave and disability programs, as well as medical care under their respective health care plan.

Immunizations

Students known to have HIV infection are not automatically exempted from institutional requirements for vaccinations; however, requests for exemptions from these requirements are handled on a case-by-case basis by the Coordinator of Health Services.

HIV Antibody Testing

The College does not require mandatory testing of either employees or students for evidence of HIV infection; however, employees and students should understand that independent insurance carriers may require HIV antibody testing. Individuals desiring HIV antibody testing are referred by the College Health Services to anonymous and confidential testing and counseling services in the region.

Confidentiality of Health Records and Release of Information

It is the policy of the College that all health records are strictly confidential. No specific or detailed information about students' health concerns or diagnoses will be provided to faculty, administrators, or even parents without the expressed written consent of the patient in each case. This position with respect to the health record is supported by Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 regarding the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases in minors. Furthermore, no person, group, agency, insurer, employer or institution will be provided medical information of any kind without the prior written consent of the patient. The inclusion of any information regarding HIV infection in any College records will be discussed with the individual prior to its entry.

Need to Know

The number of individuals at the College who are aware of the existence and/or identity of students or employees who have HIV infection will be kept to an absolute minimum on a "need-to-know" basis.

Discrimination, Harassment and Endangering Behavior

The Wheaton College Honor Code and Community Standards state that all members of the Wheaton community are expected to behave in ways that demonstrate care and respect for the physical safety, dignity, rights and freedoms of other members.

Discrimination against or harassment of persons with HIV infection or persons who are at high risk (or perceived high risk) is a violation of federal and state laws and College policies and regulations. The College will not protect individuals who violate federal and state laws. Violators of College policies and regulations are subject to disciplinary action in accordance with established College procedures.

Likewise, behavior by members of the Wheaton community known to have HIV infection that intentionally places other members of the community at risk of contracting HIV is considered endangering behavior. Such behavior is unacceptable and a violation of College policies and regulations. Violators are subject to disciplinary action in accordance with established College procedures.

Safety Precautions

The College Health Services, science laboratory personnel, and the departments of Athletics, Buildings and Grounds, and Public Safety have adopted universal precautions and safety procedures as proposed by the United States Public Health Service for the handling of blood and bodily fluids, the proper cleaning of contaminated surfaces and equipment, and the proper handling of and disposal of contaminated medical supplies in order to prevent transmission of HIV.

Amendments

The College will continue to monitor new information about AIDS and HIV infection and reserves the right to modify these guidelines.

References

"General Statement on Institutional Response to AIDS, " American College Health Association Task Force on the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndromes (AIDS), November 1988.

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