Massachusetts To Adopt Confidential Names-Based Reporting System for HIV Cases Jan. 1
The Massachusetts Public Health Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a policy under which public health providers by Jan. 1, 2007, will be required to shift from a code-based to a confidential, names-based reporting system for reporting new HIV cases, the Boston Globe reports (Smith, Boston Globe, 11/15). The decision comes in response to increasing pressure from CDC officials to establish uniform standards in HIV reporting, including the use of names instead of codes. According to the state officials, if Massachusetts does not comply with federal requirements, the state Department of Public Health could risk losing $9 million and the Boston Public Health Commission could lose $6 million annually in federal funding. The funds provide a range of services for the state's 24,000 people living with HIV/AIDS. The names-based reporting system would keep confidential records of HIV cases within a secure computer network, officials said. Massachusetts already uses a names-based system to report cases of sexually transmitted infections, such as syphilis and gonorrhea. The system also records information such as a person's age, address and risk factors (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/25). Jean McGuire -- a former assistant commissioner of health in Massachusetts and public health professor at Northeastern University -- said, "I think this is an unfortunate decision. For me, there has always been an overriding concern about the fact that we are constantly and consistently expanding the personally identifying data that the government has" (Mehren, Los Angeles Times, 11/15). Steve Boswell -- president of Fenway Community Health, which provides HIV/AIDS treatment -- said he was "neutral" about the policy change. "In Massachusetts, I have little concern about the change in policy," he said, adding that state officials have demonstrated responsibility in keeping AIDS patients' names confidential (AP/Boston Globe, 11/14). According to Sally Fogerty, associate commissioner of Massachusetts' public health department, five other states have not yet instituted a names-based reporting system for new HIV cases and all of them are moving toward adopting such a system (Boston Globe, 11/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.