GLAA dissents from HIV Surveillance Implementation Advisory Group Report
PO Box 75265
Washington, DC 20013
July 18, 2001
Ms. Joan Wright-Andoh
Chief, Division of Epidemiology
717 14th Street, NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20005
Dear Ms. Wright-Andoh:
On behalf of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA), I am dissenting from the District of Columbia HIV Surveillance Implementation Advisory Group. The Report and the process that developed it are both flawed. The failure of the Department of Health (DOH) to provide a dissent option is evidence that our opinion is not actually being sought.
The main issue that I raised at each meeting that I attended is that the proposed HIV surveillance system will raise safety and security concerns among recent immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants who risk deportation even without being infected with HIV.
By asking for a partial Social Security Number (SSN) and country of origin, immigrants will be easily identified. Considering that the United States bans immigration by anyone with HIV, no non-citizen will feel comfortable with these questions and will be deterred from getting tested.
An HIV surveillance system should not by design discourage HIV testing. The educational component is included to address concerns raised by the surveillance system, but will not likely reach the most vulnerable, least literate, and those least likely to speak English.
Washington, DC's immigrant community is large and extremely diverse. No educational system is likely to counteract the damage done by the questions in the surveillance system itself. The only way for the HIV surveillance system to not discourage testing is by removing the SSN altogether.
Our concerns in this area were casually dismissed. They are not reflected in the final report. DOH staff would not even correct the misspelling of GLAA's full name. It remains incorrectly listed in the final report. At no point was a list of participants with their contact information distributed so that members might discuss issues outside of DOH's supervision.
The HIV surveillance system presented in the report is flawed and will cause irreparable harm to the most vulnerable members of our society. For this reason we at GLAA cannot support this report.
We ask that a copy of this letter be printed as a Minority Report at the end of the official HIV Surveillance Implementation Advisory Group Final Report so that it may be read by any interested parties.
CC: Mayor Anthony Williams
Deputy Mayor Carolyn Graham
Dr. Ivan Walks, Director, Department of Health