Calif. Assembly Committee Approves Bill That Would Create Names-Based HIV Reporting System
The California Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday voted to approve a bill (SB 699) that would implement a confidential names-based reporting system for new HIV cases in the state, Advocate.com reported (Advocate.com, 2/23). California's current HIV reporting system, which was implemented in 2002, uses alphanumeric codes that incorporate a patient's birth date, 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 Los Angeles 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. The 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. 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. The California Senate in January approved 33-0 the bill, and Schwarzenegger has indicated his support (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/23).
Chronicle Examines Shifting Support for Reporting Method
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the risk of losing federal funding and the erosion of stigma surrounding HIV have played major roles in the state's shift in support for names-based reporting. Since HIV first appeared in California, the state has collected the names of people whose HIV-positive status has progressed to AIDS, and no evidence exists suggesting the information has been breached, the Chronicle reports (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/20). "People used to think it would deter people from getting tested, but the experiment's been done, and it hasn't happened," Tom Coates, an AIDS prevention expert at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, said. The Chronicle also reports that federal Ryan White Care Act funding in fiscal year 2007 will be distributed to states based on their number of new HIV cases, not AIDS diagnoses. According to the Chronicle, CDC says it only will count HIV cases reported using the names-based method. Robert Janssen, CDC division director for HIV/AIDS prevention, said, "We've wanted the HIV data to help policymakers understand who needs care and to come up with appropriate dollars." Michael Montgomery, chief of the Office of AIDS at the California Department of Health Services, said it might take at least three years for the state to implement names-based reporting -- well past the government's FY 2007 deadline. "We have to clean out from the registry all existing HIV data and start all over again," Montgomery said, adding, "It will be a big undertaking" (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/20).
KPBS' "KPBS News" on Monday reported on California's HIV reporting system. The segment includes comments from Ged Kenslea, communications director for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (Goldberg, "KPBS News," KPBS, 2/20). The complete transcript is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.