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DHS news release

Jan. 24, 2006


Contact: Bonnie Widerburg (971) 673-1282
Technical contact: Mel Kohn, M.D. (971) 673-0982

Public hearings being scheduled on federally required HIV-reporting changes


Proposed changes in how the state reports HIV test results will be the subject of three March public hearings to be held in Deschutes, Lane and Multnomah counties.

The new rule, prompted by changes in federal reporting requirements, would allow the state to retain the names of people who test positive for the disease, as 41 other states already do.

Under the current rule adopted in 2001, names of HIV-positive patients are converted to unique identifier codes once case data are recorded. But the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now require name reporting, said Mel Kohn, M.D., state epidemiologist in the Oregon Department of Human Services.

"If Oregon does not make this change, it stands to lose 30 percent to 40 percent of its annual $10 million in federal funding," Kohn said. "These dollars are our fair share of the Ryan White Care Act, on whose funds hundreds of HIV-positive Oregonians depend for medical assistance."

Oregon's future federal funding will likely be based on the number of HIV and AIDS cases officially counted by the CDC, Kohn said, but the CDC will not count cases unless the state retains individual names. He said the new federal rule has prompted the eight other states that convert names to code also to consider reporting changes.

"This change makes HIV reporting consistent with other disease-reporting practices," Kohn said, "and it will also enhance our current HIV prevention efforts. We will be able to better connect people with services and to do more timely counseling of sexual partners, which will reduce disease transmission. And it will provide a more accurate picture of the epidemic in Oregon, which will help us do a better of job of targeting prevention efforts."

Kohn said rigorous confidentiality standards apply to all reportable diseases. Since AIDS became a reportable disease in 1984, Kohn said, Oregon has maintained the names of people who test positive for AIDS with no breaches in privacy.

The rule change would not affect the availability of anonymous testing for HIV, which Kohn said would remain an option throughout Oregon.

DHS also proposes changing lab reporting rules to require that all test results used to monitor the progression of HIV disease be reported. Currently, only the first test indicating HIV infection or AIDS is reportable.

"The additional information about laboratory testing will allow us to better assist HIV-positive people who need more frequent healthcare," Kohn said. "It will also provide information on testing patterns that will help DHS more effectively ensure the availability of HIV testing in Oregon."

Public hearings will be held in Deschutes, Lane and Multnomah counties on these rule changes during the week of March 20. Location and times will be announced in February and also be posted at the DHS HIV Data and Analysis Web site  as soon as they are known.