New Law Will Track AIDS Patients By Name

Michael Hayes
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In a move that will drastically change the way the state of California tracks HIV-positive patients, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that identifies Californians who test positive for the disease by name rather than by an alpha-numeric code.

Senate Bill 699, which unanimously cleared the Senate, will take effect immediately, replacing an older system that some have referred to as antiquated and inefficient.

The new law addresses both public health concerns and fiscal issues facing the state.

“Not only will this legislation protect the state from losing millions in CARE Act funding, it will provide us with valid, uniform data to strengthen our planning of HIV/AIDS services,” Mark Cloutier, executive director of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said.

Upon signing the bill, Governor Schwarzenegger remarked that the change in law would save the state a potential loss of $50 million in federal funding for HIV and AIDS prevention.

The new law brings California into line with 40 other states that report HIV cases by name.

Speaking to XBIZ when the bill was first proposed, Dr. Sharon Mitchell of the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation (AIM) remarked that such a change in law was long overdue.

“We in the adult industry, through AIM Health Care, have been tracking adult performers through their stage names since our inception in 1998, and I think the general public has really come to realize that the diagnosis of HIV is nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed about and nothing to shame any one about,” Mitchell said.

Under the new law, state residents seeking HIV antibody tests will still be able to do so anonymously, but if they test positive and seek medical care, they will automatically be added to the list. However, if they do not seek treatment, they will only be entered into an interim database.

Although patients will be tracked by name, the new law requires confidentiality, providing for a $25,000 fine for anyone convicted of “willful or malicious disclosure.”