Number of New Reported California AIDS Cases Increased 6% in 2002
The number of new AIDS cases reported in California in 2002 increased by 6% to 4,437, after a decade of decreases, according to the state Office of AIDS, the Los Angeles Times reports. State officials attributed the increase to improved reporting by physicians and laboratories under a new system, not to a failure of HIV/AIDS treatments or a "resurgence" of high-risk behavior, the Times reports (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 1/11). Under the new system, launched on July 1, 2002, physicians and labs must report new HIV cases, in addition to new AIDS cases, to the state. The state also began to use a new alphanumeric code system, rather than the names of HIV-positive individuals, to track new HIV cases (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/1/02). "Many of the newly reported AIDS cases had been diagnosed in previous years but never reported," and they "probably were caught" because of the new HIV reporting system, the Times reports (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 1/11).
Problems with New System
However, some physicians and labs have failed to provide the state with the information required under the new HIV reporting system, a trend that has "hobbled" the system, the Los Angeles Times reports. The state has received reports on only a "fraction" of the estimated number of new HIV/AIDS cases in California -- 9,155 of an estimated 80,000 cases -- and cases "have been reported unevenly" across the state, the Times reports. Orange County reported 829 new HIV cases for a population of three million residents; Los Angeles County, with a population of 10 million residents, reported only 1,064 cases. Some physicians and clinics said that the use of alphanumeric codes, rather than patient names, "hampers the new system's efficiency and usefulness," the Times reports. "It was a bad idea legislatively and it's a worse idea in practice," Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said. However, Michael Montgomery, director of the state Office of AIDS, said that the state expected some problems in the first few years of the new system. "Nobody thought it was going to be easy," he said (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 1/11).