A Georgia proposal to collect the names of those testing positive for HIV is coming under fire from AIDS and gay rights activists, who say it may deter patients from seeking testing and treatment. Luke Shouse, an epidemiologist with Georgia's Division of Public Health, announced the proposal to begin a reporting system at a meeting of the HIV Prevention Community Planning Group on Tuesday. Health officials say the reporting system would give accurate numbers of HIV cases and help Georgia receive urgently needed federal funds for medical care under new guidelines that will allocate federal dollars based on reported HIV cases instead of estimates or only reported AIDS diagnoses.
AIDS activists say doctors should continue to keep the records of those who test positive for HIV confidential and report to the state only those patients who have progressed to AIDS. "People whom you really need to test will become fearful," said Pandora Singleton, executive director of Project Azuka, a Savannah-based HIV prevention organization. "It will be difficult for a community-based organization to reach them." Kevin Clark of Georgia Equality, a statewide gay rights group, noted that some would fear being fired from their jobs or identified as gay if their HIV diagnoses were reported to state health officials. But health experts say studies conducted in other states show that HIV antibody testing has not decreased after the implementation of names-based case reporting. The HIV names reporting system is expected to be launched in Georgia before the end of the year.