Oregon to Implement Names-Based Reporting of HIV Patients
The Oregon Health Division has announced that as of July 1, doctors and laboratories will be required to report the names of people who test positive for HIV to state health officials, the Portland Oregonian reports. Under the policy, the health division would confidentially record the names of all persons testing positive for HIV and convert the names into a numerical code within 90 days, after health officials are assured that the person will receive accurate treatment information and support services. Officials say the new names-reporting system will help track the "changing epidemic" and allow them to target "prevention efforts" toward those individuals at greatest risk. In addition, health officials say the new system will help newly diagnosed patients to get "up-to-date" care. Oregon joins 35 other states that already require health professionals to report the names of newly diagnosed HIV patients.
Following three years of debate over how new HIV cases should be reported, the new policy remains "controversial." Some members of the HIV community have expressed concern over confidentiality, fearing that they might lose their jobs or health insurance if information about HIV status "falls into the wrong hands." However, Dr. Martin Wasserman, administrator of the Oregon Health Division, said the fears were "unfounded," noting that no breach of confidentiality has occurred in the 18 years of AIDS case reporting in Oregon, which also operates on a name-based system. He added that laboratories and physicians would receive training in privacy issues. Anonymous HIV testing will still be able available at public health clinics (Colburn, Portland Oregonian, 12/22).