Calif. Assembly Approves Bill That Would Create Names-Based HIV Reporting System
The California Assembly on Thursday voted 67-0 to approve 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, 3/31). 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 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 approved the bill in January (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/22). 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, 3/14). HIV/AIDS advocates in California worry that the state might be at a disadvantage due to the high quality of care it offers HIV-positive people and the way in which AIDS cases are counted, affecting Ryan White Care Act HIV/AIDS funding calculations, which could lead to a $19 million loss for programs in the state's nine metropolitan areas (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/6). Support for the bill signals a "turnaround" in California, which was largely divided on whether the privacy of HIV-positive people would be compromised by a names-based system, the Times reports. The Assembly now returns the bill to the Senate for consideration of technical changes. Supporters say that if approved in the Senate, the bill could be signed into law within weeks, the Times reports. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) administration has voiced its support for the measure (Los Angeles Times, 3/31).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.