HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Eight States Cut From System that Tracks Rate of H.I.V.

The New York Times reports that officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that eight states and Puerto Rico will no longer receive federal money for an advanced HIV monitoring system that showed that the annual infection rate in the nation was 40 percent higher than previously estimated.  Shaila Dewan writes,

Red_ribbon_2The change will lower the number of jurisdictions using the system to 25, from 34, just as health departments are struggling to react to the news, released earlier this month, that the spread of AIDS is far worse than they had thought.

The jurisdictions that lost financing were Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Puerto Rico.

Terry Butler, a spokeswoman for the National Center for H.I.V., S.T.D. and TB Prevention at the centers, said that the total money for the system — which is awarded to applicants on a competitive basis — would remain the same, but that the remaining 25 participating states and cities would receive more. Ms. Butler said those participants had the most reliable systems and could help the centers produce the best estimates.

The system uses a new test that distinguishes recent infections from old ones, helping epidemiologists track them in something much closer to real time than was previously possible.

Julie Scofield, the executive director of the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, said that over all, money for tracking H.I.V. infections and trends had decreased and that states were struggling to keep up. Ms. Scofield estimated that the money lost by the nine jurisdictions was about $3 million.

“Surveillance funding is starving at the C.D.C.,” Ms. Scofield said. “Their ability to say that they’re going to have ongoing reliable reports of incidence is somewhat questionable unless you have funding for that.”

The alliance has called for a $35 million increase in surveillance financing.

The new H.I.V. report did not use data from all 34 jurisdictions, only the 22 with data that met scientists’ standards, Ms. Butler said. Future monitoring will use data from all 25 jurisdictions.

But Ms. Scofield said that using fewer jurisdictions would make more extrapolations necessary to get national estimates for infection rates.

Dr. Carlos del Rio, the co-director of the Emory Center for AIDS Research in Atlanta, said Georgia’s loss of money was unfortunate.

“If you’re trying to find an enemy like H.I.V.,” Dr. del Rio said, “you want to have as much information as you possibly can.”

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