Against The Privacy Of Aids

Against The Privacy Of Aids

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Last October, the case of Nushawn Williams hit the front pages. He is believed to have infected at least 13 girls and women in Jamestown, New York, with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. His name and face appeared all over the media, shredding the accepted norm of keeping HIV status confidential. In breaking this tradition, public health officials sought to identify and reach the young women he may have infected. Due to this breaking of the silence and reporting the name of the person with this infectious disease at least some women had a greater chance of living because they found out about the virus at an early state. Individuals who are identified by name on disease reports can be contacted by health departments for treatment. Fear of being identified on disease reports could deter people from seeking medical care or disease testing, therefore harming the individual by causing delays in care and threatening public health because such delays could results in further spread of disease. Name reporting of persons with infectious diseases has the potential to benefit both individual and public health.
     Name reporting of persons with infectious disease can benefit the individual person. It could enable health officials to find and counsel people who test positive, but do not return for their results or who are tested in venues that do not provide extensive educational opportunities. Such contacts could also lead to medical referrals and earlier viral loads and CD4 testing, resulting in more timely treatment and reductions in viral loads that could not only improve the individual health but, at least, theoretically, also improve the public health by reducing the infectiousness of individuals. Furthermore, there have been recent studies on new therapies that can keep HIV-positive people healthy for years. These therapies are a combination of drugs that effectively reduce the amount of HIV in the blood. People have the greatest chances of success with these therapies if they begin treatment early on, and they can’t be treated if they don’t know that they are infected and their names are not found somewhere so that they could be at least consulted. To insure that the information recorded about an individual is not used to discriminate them a law could be passed. Something like this already exists, were you can not discriminate a person if they are gay, black, white, etc., therefore, you have to hire the person if they are fully qualified

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     Name reporting of persons with infectious diseases can benefit the public health in many ways. One way is that when combined with sufficient resources and effective vaccines or cures, reporting infected individuals by name can be used to help control endemic diseases. Smallpox is a classic case: in the 1960s massive vaccination campaigns gave way to reporting of sporadic cases by name identification. Furthermore, health officials would gain valuable data from large-scale testing and reporting. These data would include such information as prevalence of HIV by demographic and lifestyle factors, such as sex, age, and sexual habits—information that is useful in planning treatment programs and targeted public education. The records that are kept are sent to state health departments, which use the information to help develop treatment and health care priorities, for prevention education, and to study, track, and monitor the course of the disease. Often reporting is anonymous, but now due to the increase of partner notification and other health reasons, 29 states have name reporting systems through which the state collects the names of those who test positive. In July, New York became the latest state to enact name-based reporting—a significant development because New York has the largest number of AIDS cases in the country. In addition, unlike most other state policies, New York’s law also included mandatory partner notification. Also, in Arizona, of 265 newly reported HIV-positive persons, 233 (88%) were contacted by health departments staff and offered risk reduction counseling and medical referrals. And in Missouri, 25% of reported HIV-positive persons were enrolled in a case management plan that offered medical care.
     In conclusion, name reporting of persons with infectious diseases has the potential to benefit both individual and public health, for all the above reasons stated. Keep in mind that thousand of names have already been revealed, however unfortunately on the AIDS quilt because by then it is too late to save that life.
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