Hepatitis C: An In-Depth Guide

 

Disclosure of hepatitis C infection

Key points

  • Generally people have a right to keep their health information private, including information about their hepatitis C infection.
  • There are some situations where there may be a legal duty for a person to disclose that they have hepatitis C or where someone else may have the legal power to disclose such information.
  • Hepatitis C is a reportable disease, which means than when a person is diagnosed with hepatitis C, their name (and probably other information) is given to local, provincial or territorial public health departments.

As a general rule, people have a right to keep their health information private, including information about their hepatitis C infection. Generally, they do not have to disclose health information to other people unless they choose to do so.

There are exceptions to these general rules, such as situations where there may be a legal duty for a person to disclose that they have hepatitis C or where someone else may have the legal power to disclose such information to a third party without consent.

Hepatitis C infections are reported to public health departments

Hepatitis C is a reportable disease. This means that when a person is diagnosed with hepatitis C, their name (and probably other information) is given to local, provincial or territorial public health departments. Public health officials have a responsibility to monitor cases of infectious diseases, including hepatitis C.

Public health departments may keep a record or database of people who have had infectious diseases such as hepatitis C. The database may include each person’s name, date of birth, gender, infection(s) and contact information. The type of information that is reported to public health departments and stored in a database depends on the law and practice in that region. There are rules in place to protect the privacy of personal information stored by public health departments. For the rules in any region, contact the local public health office.

Criminal law and hepatitis C disclosure

Under Canadian criminal law, a person with a sexually transmitted infection may have a legal duty to tell their partner about that infection before they have sex if the sex will involve a significant risk of serious bodily harm. It is unclear if people with hepatitis C have a duty to disclose their status to sexual partners under criminal law. As far as we know, there have  been at least two prosecutions against people with hepatitis C but no one has ever been convicted for not disclosing their hepatitis C infection (in these cases, charges were dropped or the accused was eventually acquitted).

We do not know if a person may have a duty to disclose that they have hepatitis C when sharing drugs and drug use equipment. Because of the risks of transmission, it is possible that people may have a legal obligation to tell people that they have hepatitis C before they share drug use equipment. As far as we know, there has not been a case where a person with hepatitis C has been criminally charged for exposing someone to the hepatitis C virus by sharing drugs or drug use equipment.

Resources for service providers

Resources for clients

Revised 2020.