Pennsylvania Health Department Proposes Names-Based HIV Reporting
The Pennsylvania state Health Department on Wednesday announced a proposal that would require doctors to disclose the names of HIV-positive patients to the department, the AP/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The proposal seeks to add HIV to the list of 52 conditions and diseases -- including AIDS -- that must be reported to the state health department. Health officials want to include HIV in disease reporting to "better target prevention programs" by determining the areas in the state that have higher numbers of HIV cases. Officials added that "effective" treatment and intervention "may be too late by the time HIV develops into full-blown AIDS." The CDC recommends that states require HIV reporting. Thus far, 34 states have established mandatory confidential name-based reporting, and "a few" states require reporting through unique identifier codes rather than names.
Some AIDS activists are concerned that the proposal would infringe on patient confidentiality and say that a unique identifier-based reporting system would circumvent the issue. "We're concerned that with reporting by name, most people with HIV ... may be less inclined to pursue testing if the results will be reported to the government," Jennifer Englerth, president of the Pennsylvania Coalition of AIDS Service Organizations, said. But Health Secretary Robert Zimmerman said that a confidential names-based reporting system would be "the most effective and efficient way to advance Pennsylvania's public health, and to help ensure those who are infected with HIV have timely access to education, medical care and social services." Pennsylvania health officials plan to publish the proposed regulation next month in the Pennsylvania Bulletin, with the rule then undergoing "at least" one 30-day public comment period prior to a six-month examination by an independent review committee. The department hopes to implement the new regulation by Jan. 1, 2002 (Yen, AP/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2/22).