Impact of name-based HIV reporting is exaggerated,’ suggests new study

The controversy over name-based surveillance for HIV patients "is kind of a tempest in a teapot," says the lead author of a recent analysis in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The supposed impact of name-based surveillance for HIV — both good and bad — is "exaggerated," said Dennis Osmond, PhD, and six other researchers in the November issue of the journal.

The study of services at eight state health departments analyzed the impact of name-based reporting on the use of HIV-related services and partner notification. Four of the five study sites with name-based HIV surveillance also offered anonymous testing, allowing researchers to examine the effects of each approach side by side.

Whether a state had name-based reporting didn’t seem to have much impact on when a person first sought care after a positive HIV test. In states with name-based surveillance, 66% sought care after two months and 81% after one year. For those without name-based surveillance, the proportions were only slightly higher, 67% and 86%, respectively.

Nor did name-based reporting seem to have much of an impact on the average number of partners identified. In the five states with name-based reporting of HIV, the average number of partners reported by those with an anonymous test (3.85) was "almost identical" to the comparable average for those with a confidential test (3.8), defined as those identified personally plus those identified through the public health system.

"My take on it is that people are willing to give the names of people they would notify anyway," Mr. Osmond tells State Health Watch.

The study analyzed health department data in five states with name-based reporting (Arizona, Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina) and three that did not (Texas, Oregon, and New Mexico). New Mexico has since passed a name-based surveillance law.

Mr. Osmond is associate professor in the University of California, San Francisco, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS). Contact him at (415) 476-3804.