DHS to Hold Public Hearing on HIV-Reporting Guidelines Today
The Department of Health Services will hold a public hearing today on a "controversial" HIV-reporting proposal that AIDS activists say might "keep people from getting tested for the virus," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Health officials have proposed an alphanumeric formula that uses a code, date of birth and the last four digits of the person's Social Security number. Under the proposal, only the results of HIV tests administered by public health programs or doctors who offer confidential testing would have to be reported. Anonymous testing sites would be exempt from the guidelines. Dana Van Gorder, director of state and local affairs for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said that the organization supports the new reporting guidelines, except for the use of Social Security number excerpts. He said, "We've asked the state to reconsider using the Social Security number because of concerns, particularly in the immigrant population, about its use." But Vanessa Baird, assistant chief of the State Office of AIDS, said, "Those four digits are not going to identify a particular individual. We took a careful look at other states' non-names-based reporting systems ... We developed a system that has utilized every possible way we can to ensure that confidentiality is protected."
State health officials say that the reporting system is "essential ... to track where the epidemic is headed." In addition, the guidelines would bring the state into compliance with a 1999 CDC guideline that calls for states to improve their surveillance of HIV by 2002. Further, officials say the new guidelines are necessary because beginning in 2005, the federal government will allocate Ryan White Care Act funds to states based on the number of HIV cases. Baird said having data only on the number of AIDS cases means state health officials must guess "when it comes to allocating funds and services for people with the virus." In California, there are 46,810 people with AIDS, and officials estimate that between 90,000 and 130,000 people are HIV-positive. The reporting guidelines could take effect early next year, after health officials consider all public comments (Heredia, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.