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Name, Please?

By Amanda Dickman in News on Apr 2, 2007 8:35PM

2007_4_nametag.jpgBy the end of 2007, every state will be tracking people with HIV by name, much to the chagrin of AIDS advocates who worry about the privacy of those included in these state databases.

For years, states have monitored HIV-positive people in various ways; Illinois used an anonymous coded system that provided for ultimate patient privacy protection, but switched over to the name-based system at the start of 2006.

Why the switch? Pressure from the federal government.

Starting this year, the amount of federal funding each state receives for HIV medication and patient services will be based on numbers derived ONLY from name-based tracking systems. With this type of pressure, states have no choice but to comply.

What's more, AIDS advocates have no choice but to surrender their fight; although this doesn't stop the worry. There is concern that the name identification will dissuade people from getting testing and/or treatment for HIV for fear that their condition would be found out by entities that they do not wish to be privy to that information.

Security breaches in Florida, Kentucky, and California undoubtedly solidify this fear. The most notable in Palm Beach County, Fla., where the names of 6,500 HIV and AIDS patients were mistakenly e-mailed to 800 county health workers. Oops.

Obviously, the most important issue here is that the states get the funding necessary for their HIV programs — fingers crossed that it's not at the cost of the very people it aims to serve.