HIV TRACKING: State Must Develop Tracking System
The lack of an HIV reporting system in California is "unacceptable" according to the CDC, and a Fresno Bee editorial agrees. The CDC recently released guidelines calling on state and local health officials to compile and report HIV cases -- either by name or unique identifier code; the editorial commends the new rules, arguing that the mandate is made on "sound" medical reasoning. Noting that new anti-HIV drugs are most effective when given early in the course of the disease, the editorial asserts that the "sooner public health officials can identify those who have the virus, the sooner these medicines can help save or prolong life," and curtail future public health problems. Although opponents of names-based reporting are fearful of confidentiality breaches, the editorial points to studies of more than 24 states with mandated name reporting that found "no basis for these fears." Gov. Gray Davis (D), who has vetoed previous measures to establish a reporting system, has indicated that he would implement such a system only if the federal government would foot the bill. While it is "understandable for a governor to ask Washington for help," the editorial insists that it is "not understandable to refuse to launch an HIV reporting system solely on this basis." Although the system has an annual price tag of nearly $2 million, the editorial maintains that the system "would easily pay for itself," as it would identify those who need treatment before they develop full-blown AIDS -- and require public subsidies to pay for medication. The editorial concludes, "Let's bring HIV out of the public health shadows, one way or the other, and launch the attack on the disease when it is most effective" (12/14).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.