Georgia Plan To Report Names of HIV-Positive People Generates Little Negative Feedback, Official Says
A Georgia proposal to implement a names-based HIV reporting system has generated a low volume of objections during the first part of a public comment period on the program, Dr. Luke Shouse, the state HIV/AIDS surveillance coordinator, said, the Augusta Chronicle reports (Basinger, Augusta Chronicle, 9/28). Georgia -- the only state that does not have a system of collecting HIV case data with personal identifiers -- in August announced plans to establish a names-based HIV reporting system (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/14). The state has collected the names and addresses of all residents diagnosed with AIDS since the 1980s in order to track the progression of the disease and to verify whether an individual is eligible for state AIDS assistance (Augusta Chronicle, 9/28). The state Division of Public Health said that the current system of tracking HIV cases without personal identifiers, such as a patient's name or a unique identifying code, is not useful because the federal government requires more detailed information when determining state HIV/AIDS funding levels. Under the new system, doctors would be required to report the names of people who test positive for HIV. Test results would remain confidential and only the health department would have access to the names. Thirty-five states use names to track HIV; 13 rely on codes, and New Hampshire allows cases to be reported with or without a name (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/14).
About 25 e-mails -- most of which object to the names-based system -- have been sent to the state Division of Public Health since the public comment period began on Sept. 17, the Chronicle reports. "I would have expected more comment," Shouse said, adding, "I am a little surprised at how much response we've gotten." Although most of the people who sent e-mails said that they support HIV reporting in some form, most people said they felt name-based reporting was not the best option. Jeff Graham, director of the AIDS Survival Project in Atlanta, said that although the state has an "excellent track record" in maintaining the confidentiality of the names collected through state AIDS reporting, the state should further consider the use of a code-based system for HIV reporting. Marcine Davis, who works at the Brunswick, Ga.-based Coastal Area Support Team, said that the names-based reporting could make people more reluctant to undergo HIV testing. "Whenever you're signing up for health care or public housing, all that requires you to give your name and basic information," Shouse said. Health officials are expected to make a decision about the proposal this fall after the conclusion of the public comment period on Oct. 16. If the Department of Human Resources approves the program's preliminary budget, the registry could go into effect as early as Jan. 1, 2004, according to the Chronicle (Augusta Chronicle, 9/28).