Originally published on Advocate.com May 11 2004 12:00 AM ET
Fifteen U.S. lawmakers last week sent a letter to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to criticize the way the agency ignores HIV case data from states that record HIV infections by codes instead of names, which they say results in a significant undercounting of the nation's HIV cases. The CDC bases its estimates of the nation's HIV caseload only on data from the 35 states that report HIV cases by name; data from 15 other states that use code-based systems are ignored because the CDC cannot ensure that reported cases are not duplicated. But the lawmakers wrote to CDC director Julie Gerberding to urge her to accept information from states with code-based reporting systems to create a more accurate picture of the U.S. HIV epidemic and to better allocate federal prevention and treatment funds to areas where HIV infections are rising. Currently, states using code-based reporting systems include some with the nation's largest numbers of HIV-positive residents, including California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia.
The lawmakers called on the CDC to "take immediate steps to accept HIV data from all states into the national HIV/AIDS database, including the incorporation of HIV data from non-named reporting states…. CDC's refusal to accept and utilize code-based data presents an inaccurate picture of the nation's epidemic and, in doing so, undermines the national effort to win the battle against HIV/AIDS. National surveillance data is critical to federal, state and local governments and communities targeting the delivery of HIV prevention, care and treatment."
The letter was sent by Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Edward Kennedy (Mass.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Paul Sarbanes (Md.), and Barbara Boxer (Calif.), and Democratic representatives Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Henry Waxman (Calif.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Elijah Cummings (Md.), Barney Frank (Mass.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (Washington, D.C.), and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.). Independent senator James Jeffords (Vt.) also signed the letter.