California Must Implement Reliable, Confidential HIV Reporting System, Editorial Says
After reports that California's current HIV reporting system "may be hindering the state's efforts" to fight HIV/AIDS, state legislators must work with health officials to "quickly implement" a new reporting system that is "confidential but also feasible," a Long Beach Press-Telegram editorial says (Long Beach Press-Telegram, 7/25). California three years ago started reporting HIV cases to the federal government using alphanumeric codes that incorporate a patient's birthdate, gender and elements of their last name. The Los Angeles Times on Monday reported that the system is failing, as many cases are believed to be lost because doctors and laboratories often send incorrect or incomplete codes or fail to keep required patient data. As a result, state health authorities are having difficulty gauging the HIV epidemic in the state and allocating appropriate funding to counties. CDC does not consider coded HIV reporting to be accurate, and federal officials have said they soon will withhold funds from states that use code-based reporting rather than confidential names-based reporting, which California uses to report AIDS cases. California could lose as much as $50 million annually in federal HIV/AIDS funds if it does not switch systems (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/26). Privacy concerns about switching to names-based reporting "are very real," and confidentiality "must" be a concern for the new system, the editorial says. However, a "reliable" HIV database helps researchers determine changes in the epidemic and public health officials "direct resources where they're needed most," according to the Press-Telegram. "California's database has delivered none of those benefits" and instead has resulted in "the headaches of a bureaucratic mess," the editorial says (Long Beach Press-Telegram, 7/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.