Illinois To Switch From Code-Based HIV Reporting to Names-Based Reporting
The Illinois Department of Public Health in January 2006 will begin requiring state health care officials to submit the names of people who test HIV-positive rather than the alphanumeric codes that they currently submit, Illinois Public Health Director Eric Whitaker announced on Wednesday, the Rockford Register Star reports. The move is in response to a CDC recommendation that states implement names-based reporting because code-based reporting often has been inaccurate or incomplete (Chambers, Rockford Register Star, 10/20). Beginning next year, some federal funding distributed under the Ryan White CARE Act will be associated with the number of HIV cases in each state, as reported by the CDC (Sherrard Blesch, Daily Southtown, 10/20). "The federal government has made the decision rather simple: Switch to name-based reporting or lose millions of dollars for essential HIV care, prevention and housing programs," Mark Ishaug, executive director of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, said (Advocate, 10/20). Whitaker said the health department will not submit the names of HIV-positive people to CDC. Tom Hughes, Illinois' deputy director of health protection, said that although the new rule will require the state to submit the names of people getting confidential HIV testing, anonymous testing still will be available. With confidential testing, a person submits his or her name but the name is kept private, whereas with anonymous testing, no name is submitted.
Doug Beardsley, administrator of the Boone County Department of Public Health, said names-based HIV reporting will help health care providers respond more effectively to the disease. "Somebody may come in, get a test, and they may never come back or follow up," Beardsley said, adding, "[T]hey need those results, particularly if it's positive, so they can change their behavior and not continue to spread" the virus (Rockford Register Star, 10/20). Although AFC has long advocated for code-based reporting, it supports the health department's decision in order to "preserve the integrity of HIV care, prevention and housing systems across the state." The group will serve on a task force created by the health department to review internal systems and help the state develop and communicate the future of HIV surveillance (AFC release, 10/19). However, some HIV service providers are concerned that the new rule will discourage people from undergoing HIV testing. "With regard to actually identifying new cases of HIV, I think it's going to be a challenge, especially when you start to look at minority populations," Bryan Latham -- executive director of the Rockford, Ill.-based Total Health Awareness Team, which focuses on HIV prevention -- said, adding, "There's already a lot of fear of testing" (Rockford Register Star, 10/20).