HIV/AIDS Names reporting: Where They Stand

D.C. Election Winners Opposed to Names Reporting

December 24, 1998

In response to HIV monitoring standards issued recently by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the D.C. Agency for HIV/AIDS (AHA) has announced its intention of initiating a system of names reporting. AHA Director Ron Lewis was quoted in the December 18 issue of The Washington Blade as saying, "There will be reporting. We must go into HIV reporting. Thatís not even a question anymore. We must move to HIV reporting to have a better sense of where the epidemic is going in our community."

A broad-based coalition of District Gay and AIDS activists is taking issue with that statement (which appears to refer to names reporting), and are joined by the vast majority of candidates — both winners and losers — in the District's recent elections. Below are printed the statements on this issue of all 1998 general election candidates for Mayor and D.C. Council, plus the statements of incumbent councilmembers who ran in the primary election for Mayor. As you will see, candidate after candidate agreed with the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance in opposing mandatory names reporting. GLAA included the question in its candidate questionnaires in response to a developing trend in state legislatures. A few candidates were noncommittal; all the rest — everyone who took a position — agreed with GLAA's opposition to names reporting.


excerpt from GLAA's "Agenda: 1998"

an election-year guide to gay and lesbian issues in the Nation's Capital
(Last revised: July 14, 1998)

Part II. AIDS and Public Health
F. Avoiding Counterproductive Legislation

There is renewed support in much of the country for attractive-sounding but ineffective legislation that mandates the reporting of the names of people infected with HIV to public health officials, encourages health workers to pressure Persons with AIDS to identify their sexual or drug-use partners for purposes of contact tracing, criminalizes the "knowing" transmission of the AIDS virus, or abolishes anonymous testing. Such measures actively discourage those most at risk from being tested or treated for HIV, from well-justified fears of exposing themselves to possible discrimination and retaliation. A far more effective strategy used in many areas supports the reporting of cases of HIV to public health officials without using actual names.


1998 Questionnaire for Mayoral Candidates

12. The New York State Legislature recently passed legislation saying that: (1) doctors must report the names of people who test positive for HIV to public health officials; and that (2) health workers must attempt to have infected patients identify their sex or drug-use partners and then must notify those partners of possible exposure. Such measures are invariably counter-productive and discourage those most at risk from being tested and treated for HIV. Will you oppose any such legislation in the District, vetoing it if necessary?

CANDIDATE RESPONSES

Anthony Williams (Democrat - Winner):

"I oppose such legislation in DC and would veto it if necessary. I am not yet convinced that the protections are in place to safeguard those persons with HIV/AIDS from discrimination."

Carol Schwartz (Republican):

"This is a difficult question for the AIDS community and for civil libertarians, both of which I associate myself with. First, let me state that I strongly believe in the right to privacy, especially in our healthcare system, and when it comes to AIDS where there has been so much discrimination. At the Whitman-Walker Clinic I always fought for such privacy protections. Let me also say that knowledge of ones HIV status is very important to ones well-being and treatment, and it is important to track not only AIDS, but also HIV. While I recognize the concerns about civil liberty issues and privacy, I am aware that certain groups, such as the National Association of People With AIDS and the Gay Men's Health Crisis, have recently decided to support names reporting. As Mayor I would work with the AIDS community and other groups, including GLAA, in order to establish a position that is acceptable for all who care about this issue."

Jack Evans (Democrat, primary candidate):

"Yes, I will oppose any such legislation in the District and would, if necessary, veto such a measure. We must ensure HIV testing and counseling are 100% confidential and accessible to all residents. Testing is so critical to AIDS treatment efforts since early detection can lead to a significantly improved diagnosis. Measures such as the New York law send a chilling message to those who are hesitant to get tested. Even worse is that many of the populations where AIDS is growing the fastest may not have the resources to bypass the new law via a home testing kit.

"Proponents of the New York legislation try to window-dress this onerous law by touting its benefits in helping to get a more accurate picture of the progression of HIV/AIDS. We all support increased HIV/AIDS surveillance which helps to plan our future care and research efforts. But, you don't need names for this - you simply need to report the cases of HIV/AIDS.

"Measures such as the New York State legislation are simply variations on mandatory testing and seriously erode public trust of HIV/AIDS testing and treatment efforts. As a Board member of the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments, I was successful in preventing passage of language calling for mandatory testing of certain individuals. I also was successful in opposing similar legislative efforts at the D.C. Council that were proposed several times between 1994 and 1996. Having worked with GLAA members and the AIDS Action Council on both of these efforts, I well know the importance of this issue. As mayor I will continue to work with the advocates to ensure we expand our HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in ways which foster public support and participation."

Kevin P. Chavous (Democrat, primary candidate):

"I will ask the assistance of all groups working to control the spread of AIDS and other sexually-transmitted disease to join in devising an effective means of controlling the transmission of AIDS without intruding on the rights of the infected."

Harold Brazil (Democrat, primary candidate):

Answer to this question was missing from candidate's response.

Brian Moore (Independent):

"Since I will be entering into the legislative arena for the first time I expect to conduct a highly educational effort to become more familiar with all of these laws. I am not prepared to take a stand on such a highly complex issue at this time. However, I will engage organizations like yours to participate in aiding my understanding of the issue."


1998 Questionnaire for Council Candidates

8. The New York State Legislature recently passed legislation saying that: (1) doctors must report the names of people who test positive for HIV to public health officials; and that (2) health workers must attempt to have infected patients identify their sex or drug-use partners and then must notify those partners of possible exposure . Such measures are invariably counter-productive and discourage those most at risk from being tested and treated for HIV. Will you oppose any such legislation in the District?

CANDIDATE RESPONSES

Council Chair

Linda Cropp (Democrat - Winner):

"Yes, I do not support the reporting of the names of persons who have tested positive for HIV. Such reporting will result in persons not being tested for fear of exposing themselves to possible discrimination. Testing for HIV should be encouraged. This is done by establishing free and anonymous testing sites convenient for all residents. With improved medical treatment of HIV, early detection is important. The anonymous tracking of incidences of HIV could assist public health officials in their prevention and outreach efforts."


At-Large DC Councilmember

David Catania (Republican, Incumbent - winner):

"Yes. I believe very strongly in the right to privacy. An individual's health is an intensely private matter. It stands to reason that if an individual's HIV results will be reported to the public health officials that his/her privacy is compromised, which would undoubtedly discourage individuals from being tested. I would oppose a policy, which would discourage individuals from being tested and treated for HIV. Moreover, while I absolutely believe an HIV positive individual should discuss the matter with his/her sex or drug-use partners, I do not believe the government should be compelling this practice. Such a practice might lead to unintended consequences for which the government is not prepared."

Phil Mendelson (Democrat - winner):

"Yes. Even if such legislation were well-intentioned, its deterrent effect exacerbates the AIDS epidemic. If the need is for good epidemiological data, there are other methods available to public health officials such as using a unique identifier system."

Hilda Mason (Statehood, Incumbent):

"Again, I would prefer not to commit myself on such a different question without a public hearing. However, my sense is that I would oppose such a measure."

Mark Thompson (Umoja):

"I will oppose such legislation."

Sandra Seegars (Independent):

"I would not support legislation saying doctors must report positively tested persons with HIV/AIDS, or health workers, with infected patients, identify their sex or drug-use partners. I would support legislation that would require positively tested persons to seek counseling to show them how important it is to reveal, or contact their sex or drug-use partners."


Ward 1 DC Councilmember

Jim Graham (Democrat - winner):

"Yes. There is a very legitimate need for good epidemiological data regarding the AIDS epidemic. I think that we achieve the same goals as this NY law by using a "unique identifier" system of identifying our caseloads. I also donít see the purpose of mandatory contract tracing of anyone unless we can guarantee that those very same people will have the health care and medications that they will invariably need."

Scott McLarty (Green):

"Yes. I would oppose all legislation that would shift resources from prevention based on education, anonymous testing, outreach, and availability of condoms and clean needles over to mandatory names reporting and other measures that would criminalize people with HIV and compromise their right to privacy, especially when discrimination against people with HIV still exists. I oppose compelling people to divulge information like sexual partners.

"I support full anonymity in testing, and the use of confidential tracking methods when necessary. I helped design and coordinated such a system in my work at the REACH program in Cincinnati (1989-1992), which targeted intravenous drug users and their sexual partners who were at risk for HIV.

"Authoritarian measures would drive the disease underground, and scare people away from getting necessary treatment and testing -- that's what resulted from hysterical and repressive measures taken against the syphilis epidemic after World War I, and it didn't slow the spread of syphilis. I've opposed and confronted fear-based policies since my ACT UP days, and even appeared on The Jerry Springer Show (back in 1992 when Jerry was more like Phil Donahue) and discussed this very topic.

"We're witnessing a trend among state and municipal legislatures to adopt mandatory names reporting laws ("Wave of Laws Aimed at People With HIV," The New York Times, Friday, September 25, 1998). I'd use my office as Council member to fight against legislation of this kind."


Ward 3 DC Councilmember

Kathy Patterson (Democrat, Incumbent - winner):

"I will oppose legislation in the District that would have the harmful effect of discouraging testing and treatment."


Ward 5 DC Councilmember

Vincent Orange (Democrat - winner):

Did not respond to GLAA questionnaire.

Ian Alexander (Republican):

"Having been a member of the Putnam County Aids Task Force in New York State before attending college and having remained in contact with many people who I know what have HIV and AIDS, I do concur with your statement and oppose such legislation in the District. Legislation such as this truly does dissuade people from getting tested and seeking the treatment that they need."


Ward 6 DC Councilmember

Sharon Ambrose (Democrat, Incumbent - winner):

"I will oppose any legislation which would violate the right of citizens to privacy in respect to health issues, which might deter folks from seeking HIV testing and subsequent treatment. I will work with the community to explore the use of "unique identifiers" in order to begin a process through which we can build a better data base from which to track the spread (and hopefully control) of the disease. Our epidemiological systems in the District are woefully lacking."


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