NEW YORKThe Gay Mens Health Crisis (GMHC), the countrys premier nonprofit AIDS service group, has changed its thinking on HIV reporting. The agency is calling for a change in state policy that would require New York physicians to report cases of HIV infection to the states health department.
Although all states require reporting of AIDS cases, only about half require HIV reporting, and these states account for only about a quarter of all AIDS cases. New York, with the highest proportion of reported AIDS cases (69 per 100,000 population), has not required reporting of those with the virus who have not progressed to AIDS. A decision in that direction by the New York legislature, which is now expected, could impact on policy in other states.
The GMHC has changed its stance in light of the advances in treatment, primarily the use of cocktails containing protease inhibitors, that in many HIV-positive individuals may prevent progression to AIDS, at least temporarily. Thus, early knowledge of infection could be life-saving and outweighs concerns that reporting would cause people to shy away from testing.
The policy change was also prompted by the recognition that tracking AIDS cases but not HIV infection does not reflect the true epidemiology of the disease.
The GMHC proposes that confidentiality be protected by a system of coded identification reporting, rather than reporting names, and objects to any efforts to require contact of the sexual partners of people identified as HIV positive (or of those who have shared needles with them).
Coded systems are currently in use in Maryland and Texas, but a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that use of codes to track HIV infection in those states may not have resulted in accurate counts.