- The Washington Times - Monday, February 20, 2006

California lawmakers this week are preparing to ditch a rule that for two decades has been a pillar of California’s AIDS policy: that the names of those who test positive for HIV not be reported to the state.

The rule afforded an extra measure of privacy and protection from discrimination for those with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, for the average 10 years it takes the infection to progress to life-threatening illness.

Today, the Assembly Health Committee will hold hearings on a bill requiring doctors to report to county health officials the names of those who test positive for HIV. The state will collect the names and hold them in a secure computer.

The measure has passed the Senate and is expected to win quick approval in the state Assembly and from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican. The measure has the backing of AIDS advocacy groups that for years fiercely resisted any move toward what is known as names reporting.

An obvious reason for the turnabout is a looming threat from the federal government to cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in AIDS assistance to states that do not adopt names reporting.

Advocates also say that the policy meant to protect privacy and encourage homosexual men to be tested for HIV has outlived its usefulness in an epidemic that bears little resemblance to how it was in its earliest days.

“The rationale for holding this position dissolved over time,” said Mark Cloutier, executive director of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, which endorsed the name-based bill in the fall, after years of opposition.

Since the beginning of the epidemic, California and other states have collected the names of those whose HIV infection has progressed to AIDS. There is no evidence that the confidentiality of that list has been breached.

“My view against names reporting has changed quite dramatically,” said Tom Coates, an HIV-prevention specialist at the University of California at Los Angeles’ David Geffen School of Medicine. “People used to think it would deter people from getting tested. But the experiment’s been done, and it hasn’t happened.”

The anticipated transition of California to names reporting marks another step away from what has been called “AIDS exceptionalism,” in which the epidemic is treated differently from other public health priorities.

HIV/AIDS cases increasingly are being addressed in the public health system just like other sexually transmitted diseases. In San Francisco, for example, city health care workers are expanding a program to notify the sexual partners of patients newly diagnosed with HIV.

“Many people, myself included, supported AIDS exceptions in the 1980s, when AIDS was an incurable disease,” said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles. “With AIDS’ being a treatable illness, it’s time to rethink that.”

cDistributed by Scripps Howard

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide