Pennsylvania State Health Department Receives Approval to Move Ahead With Plan for Names-Based HIV Reporting
Despite opposition from some HIV/AIDS activists, lawmakers and Philadelphia Mayor John Street, Pennsylvania's Independent Regulatory Review Commission yesterday approved 4-1 a state HIV tracking system that will use patients' names, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The Pennsylvania Department of Health already confidentially tracks 52 other diseases, including AIDS cases, using patients' names. Although the health department and HIV/AIDS activists were in agreement that HIV cases should be tracked -- beginning in 2005 the amount of federal funding to fight HIV will be based on the number of documented HIV-positive residents in each state -- the two sides disagreed over how the data should be collected. Some HIV/AIDS activists favored a system that tracked HIV cases using a "unique identifier" instead of the patient's name, because they say that a names-based tracking system would prevent some Pennsylvania residents from being tested for HIV for fear of a "breach of confidentiality." However, the state's confidentiality record is "exemplary," the Inquirer reports. State health department officials said that a names-based system is the best way to assist HIV-positive Pennsylvanians. "With name-based reporting, we're able to make sure that the follow-up (for treatment) that should occur does occur," Pennsylvania health department secretary Robert Zimmerman said, adding, "We strongly believe that requiring the reporting by name is the most effective and efficient means the department can take to protect the public health of Pennsylvanians." The state also plans to offer anonymous HIV testing at 130 sites statewide. Health department officials expect the names-based tracking system will be implemented in approximately four months, following an Attorney General's office review and publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin (Wiggins, Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/14). Names-based HIV reporting systems are already in place in 34 states, eight states use code-based systems, four states use a name-to-code system and four states do not report HIV cases (State Health Facts Online, 6/14). Approximately 13,000 Pennsylvania residents have AIDS, and 30,000 are estimated to be HIV-positive (Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.