DPH requires health care providers to report HIV patient names

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HIV testBOSTON -- Health care providers for HIV patients in Massachusetts will now be required to give their patients' names to state authorities for the purpose of more accurately monitoring the number of cases.

Department of Public Health spokeswoman Donna Rheume said the DPH board voted unanimously Tuesday to enact the new regulations after the federal Centers for Disease Control threatened to withhold about $15 million in annual funding. Rheume said the information will be stored in a databank accessible by only a limited number of state health professionals.

"Those names will be kept at the Department of Public Health and will not be released," Rheume said.

Health care providers already are required to turn over the names of AIDS patients to the state. Under the old regulations, HIV cases were reported using a code that kept the patients' names a secret. Rheume said the policy change will prevent duplication in counting and record-keeping.

Dr. Steve Boswell, president of Fenway Community Health, which treats AIDS/HIV patients, said he was "neutral" about the policy change.

"In Massachusetts, I have little concern about the change in policy," he said, noting that state officials have demonstrated responsibility in keeping AIDS patients' names confidential. Boswell added that some HIV activists believe patients' names should not be kept secret because such practices feed the stigma surrounding the disease.

© Copyright 2006 Associated Press.