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Officials Could Create More Complete Picture of U.S. HIV/AIDS Epidemic Now That All States Report Both HIV, AIDS Cases

February 17, 2004

Public health officials could create a "clearer and more accurate view" of trends in the U.S. HIV/AIDS epidemic now that all 50 states report both newly identified HIV and AIDS cases, the New York Times reports. Previously, states were required to report to CDC only newly identified AIDS cases, which offered information on the "trailing edge" of the epidemic because in HIV-positive individuals who do not receive treatment, primary HIV infection progresses to AIDS in approximately 10 years, the Times reports. AIDS case reporting offered a picture of "what happened years earlier," without much information on "where, how many and how rapidly, new infections were occurring," according to the Times. In 1986, Colorado, Minnesota and Wisconsin became the first states to begin reporting both HIV and AIDS cases, and by 1995, 30 states were submitting data on both. Georgia on Jan. 1 became the last state to begin reporting newly identified HIV cases. Although CDC officials had lobbied for years in favor of HIV case reporting that included patients' names, it "took years" to implement because of fears that "breaches in confidentiality could lead to discrimination," the Times reports. Some states still report to CDC new HIV and AIDS cases using numeric codes, which some officials say is not as accurate as names-based reporting.

The data culled from the reported information could help determine how to spend federal funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and care programs, some health officials say, according to the Times. Dr. Harold Jaffe, director of CDC's National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention, said that compared with AIDS reporting, HIV case reporting "puts a younger face on the epidemic," according to the Times. He added that initial reports demonstrate that there is a higher proportion of women and minorities represented among HIV cases, "and that gives us an indication of where infections are occurring." Dr. Matthew McKenna, director of NCHSTP's HIV Incidence and Care Surveillance Branch, said that AIDS case reporting "now has become much more of an indicator of who is getting treated, who is not getting tested early, and how effective therapy is." He added that the focus on HIV cases will "help health officials learn how well the [prevention] measures are working," the Times reports (Altman, New York Times, 2/17).

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