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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”



Mandatory HIV Reporting Gaining Advocates
Thursday, 21 August 1997

NEW YORK -- The New York Times reports that as AIDS treatment advances continue, the privacy concerns that have long set HIV-infection apart from other infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and syphilis have begun to fade.

Elected officials, health professionals and a growing number of advocates for people with AIDS are changing their positions regarding mandatory testing and notification that have long been used by medical practitioners in slowing the spread of other infectious diseases.

New drug therapies have made early HIV detection and treatment more beneficial than ever before. For that reason, AIDS specialists and public advocates that fought tooth and nail in defence of privacy rights are now coming around to see that, all things considered, such rights may no longer be in the patient's best interest.

The Times reports the Washington-based AIDS Action Council, which represents more than 1,400 AIDS service agencies across the country, is in the process of reviewing its opposition to states which demand all positive HIV results be forwarded to public health departments.

"It's time to recognize that the earth has shifted underneath all of us fighting the AIDS epidemic," the Council's executive director, Dan Zingale, told the Times.


In all, 26 states now have mandatory HIV reporting, and Florida and New Mexico are planning to implement such programs soon. The Times notes, however, that these states account for only 24 percent of the cases reported to the Centers of Disease Control. Of the 10 with the highest number of reported cases, only New Jersey and Louisiana have adopted HIV reporting.

One of the principal forces behind the new shift in thinking has been the CDC, which has become much more vocal in advocating nationwide mandatory HIV reporting in the last six months. Dr. John Ward, who heads the CDC's HIV-AIDS surveillance branch told the Times, "We are in an era where there is more of a compelling need for HIV surveillance than 18 months ago."

Planning vaccine research and targeting scarce resources -- be they preventive, service-oriented, or medical -- to new areas where infections are on the rise are just some of the benefits mandatory reporting would advance.


Cleve Jones, founder of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, told the Times, "Everything is changing so rapidly right now that most of us are in a position of having to re-evaluate everything we held to be gospel for many years."

-- C. Barillas, Editor