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California may
begin tracking HIV cases by name

California may
begin tracking HIV cases by name

Opposition fades to bill that would implement a names-based HIV reporting system.

State lawmakers in California are poised to pass a bill that would allow California health authorities to begin tracking HIV cases in the state by names instead of using the current codes-based system, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Some AIDS advocates and lawmakers had initially opposed such a change, saying names-based reporting could discourage people from seeking HIV antibody tests if they fear they'll be reported to state health officials. They also worry about the confidentiality of the HIV patients recorded in state records. But the federal government is expected this year to begin tying HIV prevention and treatment funding to data collected only from names-based reporting systems around the country, and California officials worry they'll lose out on as much as $50 million in AIDS dollars if they don't adopt a names-based system.

"This bill is only coming about this year because of the financial pressure from the federal government," out lawmaker Sheila Kuehl, the outgoing chairwoman of the legislature's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender caucus, told the Times.

Officials at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say codes-based systems are not as accurate as names-based programs because some coded cases are often reported more than once or are not entered into databases because of incorrect or incomplete codes.

The current bill before California lawmakers, sponsored by Democratic state senator Nell Soto, would give the state up to one year to implement a names-based reporting system. Under the bill, state residents seeking HIV antibody tests will still be able to do so anonymously. Those who test positive will only be entered into the state's HIV database once they seek medical care at a doctor's office or hospital, not when they receive the results of their tests.

Lawmakers could begin debating the bill as early as Thursday.

Thirty-nine other states already have names-based reporting systems, and most of those that don't are planning to switch in order to maintain access to federal AIDS funds. Illinois switched from a codes-based HIV reporting system to names-based reporting earlier this month. (

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