Experts: California's HIV reporting system is failing

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com January 15 2003 1:00 AM ET

Health officials in Los Angeles County say that California's HIV reporting system, launched July 1, has been ineffective during its first six months because some doctors, clinics, and labs have not reported HIV data as required, the Los Angeles Times reports. The tracking system, which records HIV patients by a unique alphanumeric code, to date has reported only a fraction of California's estimated HIV cases, which puts the state in jeopardy of losing federal HIV/AIDS funds next year when the number of federal grants will be linked with the number of HIV cases in each state.

So far, only 9,155 HIV cases have been reported in California, but federal health officials estimate that as many as 80,000 Californians are living with HIV. In Orange County, only 829 cases have been reported among the county's 3 million residents. In Los Angeles County, home to 10 million people, only 1,064 cases have been reported.

The underreporting has been linked more with doctors who are unwilling to report HIV cases than with labs and clinics that test blood samples for the virus. "I'd like to help them, but I really don't have the time to do the paperwork that they're asking me, so I'm not doing it," said Bisher Akil, a Los Angeles physician with about 200 HIV-positive patients.

State Office of AIDS director Michael Montgomery said doctors need to realize that the state's ability--or inability--to track HIV cases will be directly tied to future federal funding for services, including treatment programs. To help prompt better adherence to the HIV reporting law, officials in Ventura County have threatened to fine doctors who do not report their cases. Similar tactics are also being considered by health care and law enforcement officials in other parts of the state.