California Might Begin Names-Based Reporting of New HIV Cases
Some California lawmakers and advocacy groups are supporting a bill (SB 699) that would implement a confidential names-based reporting system for new HIV cases in the state, the Los Angeles Times reports (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 1/18). California's HIV reporting system, which was implemented in 2002, uses alphanumeric codes that incorporate a patient's birthdate, gender and elements of their last name. Under the system, laboratories and doctors report to their county's health department the codes for anyone who tests HIV positive, and the information is sent to the state, which then reports the data to the federal government. The Times in July 2005 reported that many cases are believed to be lost when doctors and laboratories send incorrect or incomplete codes or fail to keep required patient data. As a result, state health authorities have difficulty gauging the state's HIV epidemic. Code-based reporting also complicates the state's attempts to eliminate duplicative reports, follow-up with patients and the notify sexual partners of those who test HIV positive. CDC does not consider code-based HIV reporting to be accurate, and federal officials have said they will withhold funds from states that use code-based reporting rather than confidential names-based reporting. 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, 7/26/05). The California measure, by state Sen. Nell Soto (D), would allow Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) administration up to one year to create rules for the new names-based system. According to Dana Van Gorder, director of state and local policy for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, the bill also would create penalties for those who do not adhere to the confidentiality rules and would allow anonymous HIV testing in certain locations. Patients tested anonymously only would be entered into the system if they sought medical care at a hospital or from a physician, he said. Soto's measure could be debated on the Senate floor as early as Thursday (Los Angeles Times, 1/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.