Allegheny County Health Board Approves HIV Reporting Rules
The Allegheny County, Pa., Board of Health yesterday approved regulations requiring health care providers to report all new cases of HIV infection to the county Health Department in an effort to track the spread of the virus, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The new rules allow patients to choose how to be identified; they may either decide to submit their name or use a "unique identifier" code to ensure confidentiality. Board member Susanne Gollin said that the board "wanted the patients to have the option of using the unique identifier" and that patients are "better respected" by having the options. In addition, prior to administering an HIV test, health care providers must inform patients that all positive results will be reported to health officials, granting them the option of refusing testing. Thirty new cases of AIDS have been reported in Allegheny County this year, down from 64 in 1999, and a significant decline from the 238 reported in 1993, before potent antiretroviral drugs were widely available. The reduction in AIDS cases has increased the difficulty of accurate HIV tracking, leaving many officials to say that HIV infection ought to be reported as well. However, AIDS advocacy groups "counter" that people may avoid testing, and subsequent treatment, "for fear that their HIV status will become public knowledge." All 50 states require AIDS cases to be reported, but only 28 mandate HIV reporting. Pennsylvania is currently considering HIV reporting requirements. Allegheny County's new HIV reporting rules must be approved by the county council and county executive within 30 days, with the regulations becoming effective 10 days following approval (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/16). Such approval would make Allegheny County the first county in Pennsylvania to track positive HIV test results, and "allow [the county] to get a true understanding of the incidence of HIV," Health Department Director Bruce Dixon said (Associated Press, 11/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.