Oregon Plans To Retain Names of HIV-Positive People Collected Under Confidential Names-Based Reporting System
Oregon by June 2006 plans to retain permanently the names of HIV-positive people in state records and effectively stop using a system that converted the names to codes after 90 days, the Eugene Register-Guard reports (Steves, Eugene Register-Guard, 1/25). Oregon's current HIV reporting system, which took effect in 2001, requires physicians to report confidentially the names of HIV-positive people to the Oregon Health Department and grants the department 90 days to follow up with doctors to ensure that patients receive proper care and support. Patients' names then are replaced by a numeric code (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/15/01). Under the new system, Oregon would not report the names of HIV-positive people to the federal government, but the names would remain permanently on file in state records that would be stored on a secure computer that is not connected to a network, Mel Kohn, an epidemiologist with Oregon's Department of Human Services, said (O'Neill, Oregonian, 1/25). 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/23). The federal government in its reports does not include data on the number of HIV cases from states that do not retain the names of HIV-positive people, making it difficult to decide how much funding should be allocated to each state, the Register-Guard reports (Eugene Register-Guard, 1/25). Kohn said that because of the new federal requirement, Oregon could lose 30% to 40% percent of its annual federal funding for HIV/AIDS treatment if the state does not retain the names. According to Kohn, keeping the names will help researchers slow the spread of HIV/AIDS by giving them more time to ask HIV-positive people about how they could have contracted the virus, adding that it also will help to prevent counting new HIV cases more than once. He also said that anonymous testing will still be available in the state. State health officials in March plan to hold hearings in several counties to "gauge public sentiment" and plan to implement the change in late March or early April, the Oregonian reports (Oregonian, 1/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.