Date Published: October 2014
The availability and easy accessibility of information that the internet provides is an opportunity and a challenge. Providers will need to make individual agency-level decisions about what and how to present information in developing and managing their online presence. These decisions will be driven by the nature and history of an organization along with their goals and mission.
Agencies that serve a diverse population should generally describe a range of services or people they serve, including services targeted for people living with HIV. However, agencies that solely serve or are vocal advocates for people living with HIV in their communities may not have that option. Being easily identified as an agency that serves people with HIV may be a vital aspect of an agency’s ability to succeed at their mission. This community presence and awareness may be enhanced by an online presence. Regardless of an agency’s mission, every agency is responsible to protect the confidentiality of the people they serve.
Agencies that are easily connected to programming that serves people with HIV, such as those with either ‘AIDS’ or ‘HIV’ in their agency name, may need to consider strategies to avoid the unintended disclosure of confidential information. Examples include serving clients off-site as needed, using an agency post office box to receive written correspondence, maintaining distinct phone lines for certain purposes, among other important strategies. Agencies must avoid identifying the HOPWA program as a funding source when it would lead to disclosing the HIV status of clients served, including in housing assistance program materials of all sorts (e.g. leases, brochures, and webpages). For additional guidance, please review the HOPWA Confidentiality User Guide, pp. 14-16.