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AIDS Reporting

Fall 1998

While tuberculosis and syphilis cases must be reported to county health officials in Los Angeles, Calif., people with HIV have not been monitored. Despite declines in the incidence of HIV in the general population, many epidemiologists and public health officials have urged HIV reporting to increase surveillance of the disease.

Two current monitoring methods exist: mandatory name reporting and the use of unique identifiers that code for patient names, providing anonymity. California state legislature approved a bill last week to use a coded system to monitor HIV cases. According to an editorial in the Los Angeles Times -- Washington Edition, Gov. Pete Wilson should sign the legislation, offering a balanced approach to monitoring the HIV situation in the state. Name reporting proponents assert that the system is more accurate, cheaper, more efficient, and less prone to error. However, others are concerned that name-based reporting will deter HIV testing, while a coded system should foster more confidence in testing.

One study in Los Angeles three years ago found that 86 percent of respondents said they would not get tested for HIV if they knew that their names were reported. The author asserts, "In the world of statistics, name-based reporting may be superior to a code-based system. But in the real world, codes are health officials' best hope of gathering HIV data."

(Please see "Confidential Ms. Information" in this newsletter)

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