BEYOND AIDS COMMENDS PHILADELPHIA'S SWITCH TO NAME-BASED HIV REPORTING

THE FOLLOWING LETTER WAS SENT TO THE PHILADELPHIA HEALTH COMMISSIONER ON BEHALF OF BEYOND AIDS, TO SUPPORT THE COMMISSION'S VOTE TO DISCONTINUE CODED REPORTING OF HIV AND TO CONVERT TO NAME-BASED REPORTING. THE REST OF PENNSYLVANIA HAS HAD NAME-BASED HIV REPORTING SINCE OCTOBER 2002. PHILADELPHIA HAS UNTIL NOW REFUSED TO COOPERATE. AFTER A PROLONGED STANDOFF, PHILADELPHIA WAS GRANTED AN EXEMPTION IN MARCH 2005 BY HEALTH SECRETARY CALVIN JOHNSON. THE RECONSIDERATION AND SWITCH TO NAMES IS MOTIVATED IN PART BY THE FEAR OF FEDERAL FISCAL RYAN WHITE FUNDING PENALTIES BY FISCAL YEAR 2007, FOR LACK OF AN HIV REPORTING SYSTEM THAT MEETS FEDERAL STANDARDS.

September 5, 2005

Joanne Godly, Commissioner
Philadelphia Department of Public Health

Every day for me is another without my son who died in 1995 of AIDS, a result of a blood transfusion given in 1981. Without notification from a donor look-back program in 1985, Randy, then 24 years of age, would have married, had children, and unknowingly infected his loved ones. I have a vested interest in the prevention of HIV by public health officials.

As a founding member of Beyond AIDS, an organization whose mission is in part to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS by individual responsibility and recognized public health practices, I applaud the decision of Philadelphia's Board of Public Health to begin reporting cases of HIV by name.

Stigma and discrimination have been the cries from those calling for coded reporting of HIV diagnosed individuals. National and state legislations have long been passed to protect rights and freedoms of those living with the disease. AACO (AIDS Activities Coordination Office) reports that in Philadelphia special initiatives such as Storefront Models now exist to eliminate HIV identification for those receiving services. With name reporting linked to funding for services and ability to reach those infected with medicines and services, it is imperative for authorities to maintain name reporting as required by the CDC.

Individuals are living much longer with HIV because of new treatments, allowing for those infected with the virus to have a long time period of passing the virus to others. I believe that name reporting, along with case management including contact tracing is a humane practice, which can interrupt many possible transmissions of HIV in what is a still-increasing epidemic. In Philadelphia alone, 82 new cases were reported in May 2005, with 347 cases year to that date.

I believe society deserves the very best protection public health can deliver from any disease, whether AIDS or another communicable contagion. As a grieving Mother I know that one death from HIV infection is too many. My hope is that Philadelphia will prevail in changing to name reporting of HIV cases as proposed in the interest of containing this deadly epidemic.

Harriet Bowen, AIDS educator and member of Beyond AIDS



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