Originally published on Advocate.com August 04 2004 12:00 AM ET
Although the state of California already uses an HIV tracking system that uses anonymous alphanumeric codes to identify each HIV case in the state, some health and government officials are now saying they'd rather track the cases by the names of the HIV patients, the Los Angeles Times reports. California is the only one of the five states with the most HIV cases that uses a code-based HIV reporting system; the others all record cases by patient names. But a state panel found the code-based system to be "labor-intensive, less accurate, and more complex than the name-based system." The panel also says errors that could occur from the code-based system could jeopardize up to $50 million in federal AIDS funds to the state.
The proposal to change to a name-based reporting system drew both praise and concern from AIDS organizations. The Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the nation's largest provider of HIV care, said a name-based system is preferable to the current reporting method. "The unique identifier is complicated to report, and it's hard to determine whether a person is counted twice," Michael Weinstein, AHF president, told the Times. But Fred Dillon, director of policy and communications for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, says name-based reporting could scare some people at high risk for HIV infection away from taking HIV antibody tests for fear that their names could be inadvertently revealed if they tested positive.