Massachusetts Public Health Council Approves Regulations for Names-Based Reporting System for HIV Cases
The Massachusetts Public Health Council on Tuesday approved regulations for a policy under which public health providers will be required to shift from a code-based to a confidential, names-based system for reporting new HIV cases, the Boston Herald reports (Fargen, Boston Herald, 1/24). The policy comes in response to increasing pressure from CDC officials to establish uniform standards in HIV reporting, including the use of names instead of codes (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/15/06). Following the reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act in December 2006, Massachusetts risked losing $33 million in federal HIV/AIDS funding, including $13 million for Boston programs, if the state did not comply with federal regulations, according to the Daily Free Press (Wickman, Daily Free Press, 1/24). 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, 11/15/06). According to Kevin Cranston, director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's HIV/AIDS bureau, the policy will not apply to free clinics that provide HIV tests because such clinics offer preliminary examinations, after which people who test positive are referred to a health provider for further tests. Health providers will be required to report new HIV cases under the names-based system, according to Cranston (Daily Free Press, 1/24). Although Cranston said that every effort will be made to protect the privacy of people living with HIV in the state, some HIV/AIDS advocates said they believe the new regulations will not adequately safeguard confidentiality, according to the Herald (Boston Herald, 1/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.