Pennsylvania’s Debate on HIV Reporting Has Implications Beyond HIV-Positive Population, Columnist Says
Pennsylvania's recent approval of a names-based HIV reporting system has implications "larger" than the state's estimated 30,000 HIV-positive people, nationally syndicated columnist Jane Eisner writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer. In light of Sept. 11, the "delicate line between private right and public responsibility" is now being renegotiated and redrawn, she says, adding that a threat -- whether from AIDS or terrorism -- must be determined to be "real" enough to "warrant the relinquishing of the individual's right to privacy and civil liberties." Although Pennsylvania "dillydall[ied]" before approving an HIV reporting system, this extra time allowed officials to observe that the other 34 states' HIV reporting programs were successfully able to collect data while maintaining patient confidentiality, Eisner states. The alternative HIV data collection method proposed by HIV advocates who were concerned about patient privacy -- reporting using a unique identifier instead of a name -- would likely have been "costly" and could have had its "own security lapses," she says. State officials now must keep the "hefty promise" of maintaining patient confidentiality while using HIV status information to "target the right people and help save lives," Eisner concludes (Eisner, Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.