Georgia Must Maintain ‘Delicate Balance’ Between Public Health, Confidentiality in HIV Testing Program, Editorial Says
The experience of Georgia and other states shows that it is possible to implement disease reporting systems without violating the privacy of patients or discouraging them from seeking testing or treatment, but the state Division of Public Health should "stay mindful of the delicate balance between public health needs and privacy rights," an Augusta Chronicle editorial says (Augusta Chronicle, 8/19). Georgia, which had been the only state that did not have a system of collecting HIV case data with personal identifiers, last week announced plans to establish a names-based HIV reporting system. The state said that the current system of tracking HIV cases without personal identifiers, such as a patient's name or a unique identifying code, is not useful because the federal government requires more detailed information when determining state AIDS funding levels. Under the new system, doctors will be required to report the names of people who test positive for HIV. Test results will remain confidential and only the health department will have access to the names, health officials said (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/14). The Chronicle says that the data collected could be used to "pinpoint" areas of the state that need funding for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention education programs. But it is important for officials to be careful to maintain patient confidentiality because a privacy violation could "poison further efforts to collect vital public health data and could, quite possibly, worsen the epidemic," the editorial concludes (Augusta Chronicle, 8/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.