HIV Data Collection Must Be Secured – NZ Aids Foundation





AUKLAND, February 22, 2008  –  Adding HIV to the Ministry of Health’s list of notifiable conditions will help create an “HIV census”, ensuring that anonymous data collection on New Zealand’s HIV and AIDS epidemic is secured for the future, says the New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF).

NZAF is supporting moves in the forthcoming Public Health Bill to make HIV a “notifiable” condition, providing the current anonymous coding system is retained.  AIDS has already been a notifiable condition since 1985 with no breaches of confidentiality.

“AIDS represents the end result of HIV infection, and with the effectiveness of new treatments for HIV, information on AIDS notifications are increasingly less useful as a tool for tracking the spread of the epidemic,” says Rachael Le Mesurier, Executive Director of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation.

New HIV diagnosis information is currently sent by GPs, sexual health clinics and NZAF centres to the AIDS Epidemiology Group at Otago University, who collate the six-monthly AIDS New Zealand reports. 

This system has been working very well since 1985 and has been entirely voluntary.  Nearly 2,500 New Zealanders with HIV have given their permission for data on their diagnosis to be collected and published in AIDS New Zealand.

“The AIDS Epidemiology Group currently receives information on over 95% of HIV diagnoses, but there is no legal requirement for this data to be collected,” Ms. Le Mesurier says.

“With the many demands placed on our health services, and the good news that treatments have drastically reduced AIDS deaths, we need to ensure that HIV is given the priority treatment it deserves by making the anonymous data collected secure for the future.”

NZAF is keen to point out that this data collection system has not and would not involve identification of HIV positive people.

“This is about collecting the ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘how’ of new HIV infections, not the ‘who’,” Ms. Le Mesurier explains.  “The confidentiality of HIV positive New Zealanders must be protected.

“However, we need reliable data to map the changes in the HIV epidemic, she continued.

“For example, treatment-related deaths are a new complication that can only be monitored by analysing HIV diagnoses, rather than AIDS.”

The Public Health Bill is currently before the Health Select Committee.  The closing date for submissions is Friday March 7, 2008.



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Posted: 22 February 2008 at 00:00 (UK time)




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