Montana’s HIV/AIDS Names-Based Reporting System Preserving Privacy, Official Says
The privacy of the almost 500 people living with HIV/AIDS in Montana has been preserved since the state last year switched from a code-based reporting system to a names-based reporting system, Laurie Kops, section supervisor of the state's HIV prevention and surveillance division, said recently, the AP/Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports (AP/Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 8/6). CDC in 1999 endorsed names-based reporting and in 2005 recommended that states use names-based reporting systems. Beginning this fiscal year, the funding formulas used by HHS to calculate Ryan White Program grants include only HIV data from states that use names-based reporting systems. All U.S. states and Washington, D.C., by the end of 2007 will begin recording HIV cases using names-based reporting systems rather than code-based reporting systems (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/3).
Montana began names-based reporting in September 2006, according to Kops. If the state had not switched to names-based reporting from its code-based system, it risked losing a significant portion of the $2.1 million in federal funds it receives for HIV/AIDS programs, the AP/Daily Chronicle reports. Officials have said the system has been effective in tracking the number of HIV/AIDS cases, as well as protecting records that could identify Montana residents living with the disease.
"In trying to make sure we report the true numbers of cases," names-based reporting is "one of the best ways to accomplish that," Kops said. She added that only summary data on the number of HIV/AIDS cases is given to CDC. "When there is a report to CDC, it's only by the numbers, and not by name," Kops said, adding, "That seems to be people's greatest fear -- that their information will be released by name" (AP/Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 8/6). Erin Barnes -- the department's HIV surveillance specialist, who has access to the names -- said Montana has "very strict confidentiality guidelines," adding, "It's a big deal for CDC and for us." David Herrera, a state HIV prevention contractor and member of the Montana Gay Men's Task Force, said, "Coupled with the fact there hasn't been a breach in that confidence at the state health department with HIV data, I think people felt confident the information would be safeguarded" (Richardson, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 8/4).