Pennsylvania Commission Set to Vote on ‘Controversial’ HIV Reporting Plan
Pennsylvania's Independent Regulatory Review Commission on Thursday will vote on a "controversial" HIV reporting plan that would require the confidential use of the names of HIV-positive individuals when reporting cases to state and local health officials, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Although Pennsylvania has used a name-based reporting system for 20 years to report state AIDS cases, it is one of only nine states that does not yet require HIV cases to be reported to county and state health officials. While AIDS activists, state lawmakers and health officials agree that HIV reporting is necessary for tracking and fighting HIV infection in the state, the plan for such reporting has been debated for five years. Both the state health department and the CDC support names-based reporting systems, but some AIDS activists and state lawmakers oppose such a plan out of a concern that the use of names would discourage HIV testing. "We are behind the times on HIV reporting," AIDS Law Project Executive Director Ronda Goldfein said, adding, "But if we have reporting that is not done right, what's the point? It will be a setback." Those who do not support the proposed state plan have suggested a "coded system" for HIV reporting that would use a "unique identifier" instead of a name for each HIV-positive person. The plans could each experience potential "pitfalls" when individuals are tested multiple times or when individuals give false names. According to the state health department, which has called names-based reporting "the best method," anonymous HIV testing would still be available throughout the state even if the commission approved the names-based reporting plan. If the plan is not approved, the state health department may modify or withdraw the plan. In addition, the state House, Senate and governor can jointly overrule a commission decision although it "rarely" occurs, according to the Inquirer. Names-based HIV reporting systems are currently used in 34 states, while only seven states use a coded system. Approximately 13,000 Pennsylvania residents have AIDS and an estimated 30,000 are HIV-positive, according to the Inquirer (McCullough, Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/10). For more information on HIV reporting systems by state, visit www.statehealthfactsonline.org.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.