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Montana's HIV/AIDS Reporting System Preserving Privacy

Armen Hareyan's picture

The privacy of people living with HIV/AIDS in Montana has beenpreserved since the state last year switched from a code-basedreporting system to a names-based reporting system, Laurie Kops,section supervisor of the state's HIV prevention and surveillancedivision, said recently, the AP/Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports (AP/Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 8/6). CDCin 1999 endorsed names-based reporting and in 2005 recommended thatstates use names-based reporting systems. Beginning this fiscal year,the funding formulas used by HHS to calculate Ryan White Programgrants include only HIV data from states that use names-based reportingsystems. All U.S. states and Washington, D.C., by the end of 2007 willbegin recording HIV cases using names-based reporting systems ratherthan code-based reporting systems (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/3).

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Montanabegan names-based reporting in September 2006, according to Kops. Ifthe state had not switched to names-based reporting from its code-basedsystem, it risked losing a significant portion of the $2.1 million infederal funds it receives for HIV/AIDS programs, the AP/Daily Chroniclereports. Officials have said the system has been effective in trackingthe number of HIV/AIDS cases, as well as protecting records that couldidentify Montana residents living with the disease.

"In tryingto make sure we report the true numbers of cases," names-basedreporting is "one of the best ways to accomplish that," Kops said. Sheadded that only summary data on the number of HIV/AIDS cases is givento CDC. "When there is a report to CDC, it's only by the numbers, andnot by name," Kops said, adding, "That seems to be people's greatestfear -- that their information will be released by name" (AP/Bozeman Daily Chronicle,8/6). Erin Barnes -- the department's HIV surveillance specialist, whohas access to the names -- said Montana has "very strictconfidentiality guidelines," adding, "It's a big deal for CDC and forus." David Herrera, a state HIV prevention contractor and member of theMontana Gay Men's Task Force,said, "Coupled with the fact there hasn't been a breach in thatconfidence at the state health department with HIV data, I think peoplefelt confident the information would be safeguarded" (Richardson, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 8/4).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyHIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . TheKaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service ofThe Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.