Graham calls HIV reporting plan "counterproductive"
Councilmember, Ward One
Council of the District of Columbia
441 4th Street, N.W., Suite 718
Washington, DC 20001
December 28, 2000
Ivan C. A. Walks, M.D.
Director of Health
825 North Capital Street, N.W. Suite 4400
Washington, DC 20002
Dear Dr. Walks:
I am writing you on a matter of utmost concern. It has come to my attention that the Health Department has plans to adopt a "Unique Identifier System" that includes social security numbers in reporting HIV infection for surveillance purposes. I urge you to reconsider that plan.
It has been my considerable experience that this approach will be counterproductive to our efforts. As you are aware, the issues related to HIV are very complex and go beyond being tested for the virus, though encouraging residents to be tested is a beginning. However, suggesting that in any way that such tests would be anything except totally confidential will have a negative effect on the number of persons willing to be tested.
In addition, there are a number of other significant drawbacks:
(1) Foreign born persons will not have a social security number.
(2) People often forget or mis-remember their social security number.
(3) It would be a violation of District law and the spirit of the law, which in addition to protecting the public at large, is also intended to protect those who test positive.
It is my belief that your current plan of action would jeopardize whatever gains the District has made in controlling this deadly disease. I would also point out that those jurisdictions that have tried using social security numbers, now regret it.
Again, I urge you to reconsider your plan to use social security numbers as case identifiers. Numeric codes would allow the District to continue tracking this horrible disease and protect the public at large.