TEXAS: Health Dept. Wants Names-Based HIV Reporting
The Texas Department of Health has recommended that health care providers be required to report the names of HIV-infected individuals, the Houston Chronicle reports. Although the department stresses that the names would remain confidential -- much like the system used for reporting the names of individuals with AIDS -- "AIDS advocates fear the proposed rule would discourage people from being tested and seeking treatment for the virus." Since 1994, Texas policy requires HIV-infected individuals be identified by a 12-digit code to the Department of Health. However, the Chronicle reports, only 26% of positive HIV tests are tracked under this system. Under the proposed policy change, the department says it hopes to boost the percentage of reported cases to allow "health care providers to help more people earlier." Dr. Sharilyn Stanley, chief of the Health Department's bureau of HIV and STD prevention, said, "We can now do many things to help a person with HIV stay healthy longer, if we find out about their illness early enough." Stanley insists that the department's reporting strategy is secure. She noted, "More than 45,000 cases of AIDS have been reported in Texas with no breaches of confidentiality."
Breach Of Privacy?
A number of groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the AIDS Foundation in Houston oppose names-based reporting, and instead suggested the agency should "refine its current system of assigning numbers to people who test positive for HIV" so that the department's figures would more accurately reflect the incidence of HIV in the community. John Paul Barnich, former chair of the AIDS Foundation in Houston, called the proposal a "bad idea," and will "discourage people from getting tested." Dianne Hardy-Garcia, executive director of the Lesbian-Gay Rights Lobby of Texas, encouraged the department to exhaust other methods for increasing reporting or "ensure confidentiality by enacting a fine form disclosing names" (Robison, Houston Chronicle, 8/14). The agency "is accepting public comment on the proposal" before the final proposal is submitted to the Texas State Board of Health in November (AP/The Dallas Morning News, 8/14). Click here for past HIV/AIDS names-based reporting in the Daily HIV/AIDS Report. The online Report is available free through the Kaiser Family Foundation's website (www.kff.org). Readers can also sign up for free e-mail delivery!