GLAA submits extended testimony on unique identifier amendment
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GLAA submits extended testimony on unique identifier amendment

From: Bob Summersgill
To: David Catania
Cc: Jim Graham ; Vincent Gray ; Vincent Orange ; Jack Evans ; Tori Whitney
Sent: Monday, June 13, 2005 5:34 PM
Subject: Extended testimony on the Unique Identifier System Amendment Act of 2005, Bill 16-0116

Chairman David Catania
Committee on Health
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004

Chairman Catania:

Please accept this email as extended testimony for the record to clarify a section of Bill 16-0116, the "HIV Unique Identifier System Amendment Act of 2005".

During the hearing on May 26, 2005, you indicated your intent to mark up the legislation without the paragraph prohibiting the use of the epidemiological surveillance system for contact tracing, with the idea that we should make efforts to make sure that everyone know if they are at risk.

GLAA agrees with the idea of a contact tracing system, if it is properly designed and implemented. However, we feel that it should not be part of the unique identifier surveillance system. Combining the two would cause both to fail their intended purposes.

The unique identifier system has been designed to get as accurate as possible results with minimal privacy violations that may deter people from getting tested. A contact tracing system would create the most invasive of privacy actions possible by the government, investigation into the private sexual behavior and liaisons of the people in the District.

A contact tracing system could not be reasonably administered in such a way that the names of the individuals and their contacts would not be known. This necessarily creates just the sort of paper trail held by a government agency that we are trying to avoid.

What we do not want to happen is for the government to institute a monitoring system for every sexual liaison to be captured in a database with the names and liaisons of every person with, or even suspected of having HIV. That defeats the purpose of the unique identifier system, would undermine what limited public trust there is in the Department of Health, and further stigmatize people with HIV. The result would be people fearing to get tested lest they get caught up in the governmentís web.

Interviews of people with HIV to determine their sexual partners needs to be conducted in private, confidential settings by doctors, nurses, or social workers as part of the counseling that ideally occurs at the time a patient receives an HIV-positive test result, and in follow-up sessions. If they know that all of that information will be sent to government officials and kept in an ever growing database, many people will avoid testing, treatment, and counseling that they need.

A contact tracing system needs to be confidential, or even anonymous. Names and other identifying information must be routinely purged. And ideally, a community based organization, and not a government agency will make the needed contacts to inform people that they may have been infected.

Please leave in place the proposed legislation's restriction on the unique identifier system data being used for contact tracing. Contact tracing, if it is to be implemented in the District, needs a very different system and structure.

Thank you.

Bob Summersgill, Treasurer

Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C.
P.O. Box 75265
Washington, DC 20013

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