Advocates Condemn State, National Push for Names Reporting
(NEW YORK, March 17, 1999) -- Advocates for African-American, Latino, Asian-American, gay and poor communities Wednesday denounced draft regulations for New York's controversial HIV names reporting/partner notification law and issued a joint warning against similar efforts across the country.
At a news conference at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund's headquarters, Lambda Executive Director Kevin M. Cathcart warned, "Government lists are threatening to the poor, the young, women and gay men of all races, undocumented immigrants and many people of color. It is bad public health policy to chase people away from the health care system -- and worse to divert millions of dollars from prevention and treatment."
|Lambda's AIDS Project Director Catherine Hanssens (front left) and Executive Director Kevin M. Cathcart (center) are joined [in criticizing HIV names reporting] by allies (l-r) Dr. Rona Vail, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center; Maggie Brennan, AIDS and Adolescents Network of New York; Kevin McGruder, Gay Men of African Descent; Andy Stern, Gay Men's Health Crisis; Nairobi Shellow, AIDS and Adolescents Network; and Nathan Kerr, People of Color in Crisis.|
Federal officials are promoting HIV names-reporting policies around the country, while on Wednesday, New York released a sweeping proposal to not only collect names, but also require its Health Department to contact individuals' sex partners and allow further disclosures of their HIV status. At the start of a 45-day public comment period, the proposal drew harsh criticism at the Lambda news conference.
Cathcart noted, "Numerous studies have shown that mandatory names reporting frightens people away from HIV testing and care. Federal health officials and New York state must listen to the concerns of these communities and ensure that their policies do not undermine the fight against AIDS."
Lambda AIDS Project Director Catherine Hanssens warned, "New York is poised to become an example of the country's worst response to the HIV epidemic. Faced with the government collecting their names and releasing them to wide numbers of people, many who need testing and treatment will avoid the health care system altogether."
The proposed rules require doctors, labs, clinics and blood banks to report the name and address of any person who tests positive for HIV. Local health department officials or physicians for HIV patients would be required to notify in person anyone who may have had sex or shared needles with someone with HIV.
Medical laboratories not only will have to report new cases of HIV, but also the results of every test performed on someone with HIV. So, someone who tested positive ten years ago will be reported to the state nearly every time she or he seeks HIV-related treatment.
Among the proposal's most aggressive measures is a plan to give ambulance drivers and police access to information on the HIV status of emergency patients they transport, something activists said suggests how easily privacy and confidentiality can be breached.
Joining Lambda at the news conference were representatives from groups including:
- AIDS and Adolescents Network of New York
- Asian-Pacific-Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS
- Callen-Lorde Community Health Center
- Gay Men's Health Crisis
- Gay Men of African Descent
- Harlem Directors Group
- Housing Works
- Latino Commission on AIDS
- National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum
- National Urban League
- New York Peer AIDS Education Coalition
- People of Color in Crisis.
Kevin McGruder, executive director of Gay Men of African Descent, noted that African-Americans and Latinos already are skeptical of the health care system. As a result, "If many of the people who continue to be hit hardest by HIV are deterred from testing because of the requirement that they provide their names, the surveillance of HIV will be seriously undermined."
Health care providers such as Dr. Robert L. Cohen, a former New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation vice president, also criticized the names-reporting effort.
"As someone who has long treated patients with HIV, I know how difficult it is for people to decide to get tested. By requiring me to report the names of those who test positive or who already are in care, the government drives a wedge between me and my patients. This is dangerous public health policy," Cohen warned.
At the news conference, Lambda issued copies of a joint statement signed by nearly 100 organizations and individuals about the perils of mandatory HIV names reporting.
Signatories include former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, United States Representative John Lewis, Adolescent HIV Clinic/SUNY Health Science Center, the National Urban League, National Minority AIDS Council, the AIDS Office of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, GMHC, AIDS Action, AIDS Project Los Angeles, and numerous individual physicians.
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund is the nation's oldest and largest legal organization serving lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV/AIDS.
Copies of the open letter and a complete list of signatories can be obtained by contacting Lambda's Public Education department at 212-809-8585 ext. 241, or by visiting Lambda's web site at www.lambdalegal.org.
ADDITIONAL CONTACTS FOR NAMES REPORTING NEWS CONFERENCE WEDNESDAY, MARCH 17, 1999
Catherine Hanssens, AIDS Project Director, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. Lambda is the nation's oldest and largest legal organization serving lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV and AIDS. Phone: 212-809-8585.
Kevin M. Cathcart, Executive Director, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. Cathcart will discuss how the draft New York state regulations infringe upon basic civil liberties. He will also provide a national perspective on the issue of names reporting. Phone: 212-809-8585.
Nathan Kerr, Committee Chair, People of Color in Crisis. Kerr will discuss the impact of the regulations on communities of color. POCC primarily serves African-Americans and African-Caribbeans in Brooklyn. Phone: (718) 243-9300.
Dennis DeLeon, Executive Director, Latino Commission on AIDS. DeLeon will focus on the regulations' requirement that a name must be provided in order to receive medical care from the state. The Commission primarily serves Latinos and Spanish-speaking immigrants throughout New York City. Phone: (212) 675-3288 ext. 202.
Maggie Brennan, Executive Director, AIDS and Adolescents Network of New York. Brennan and 20-year-old Nairobi Shellow will talk about the regulation's lack of specific considerations for young people and readily available domestic violence protocols. AANY advocates on behalf of and with young people in New York City to ensure their access to state of the art HIV/AIDS treatments and prevention education. Phone: (212) 505-9115.
Valerie Jimenez and Gervin Griffith, Housing Works clients. Valerie Jimenez will talk about how true HIV prevention involves education and women's empowerment, not through legislation that victimizes women. Griffith will discuss how names reporting will drive people away from testing. Contact: terri smith-coronia (212) 966-0466.
Dr. Robert C. Cohen, former Vice President of the New York Health and Hospitals Corporation. Cohen, now a physician in private practice, will talk about the high cost of implementing the controversial New York law. Phone: (212) 620-0144.
Dr. Rona Vail, Medical Director, Michael Callen-Audre Lorde Community Health Center. Vail will discuss how the law damages the doctor-patient relationship. Callen-Lorde is New York's only health care center primarily serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and those living with HIV/AIDS. Phone: Kathy Strieder (212) 271-7268.
OTHERS IN ATTENDANCE:
Kenneth Austin, General Counsel, National Urban League. The NUL is the nation's premiere social service and civil rights organization, providing assistance to African Americans in the achievement of social and economic equality. Contact: Leslie Dunbar (212) 558-5438.
Jeanne Bergman, Executive Director, New York Peer AIDS Education Coalition. NYPAEC conducts peer-based HIV prevention and harm reduction outreach with street youth. Phone: (212) 463-0885 ext. 24.
Rivinia Hayes-Cozier, Executive Director, Harlem Directors Group. HDG is an AIDS advocacy and community based organization in Harlem. Phone: (212) 531-0049 ext. 18.
Kevin McGruder, Executive Director, Gay Men of African Descent. GMAD is a supportive organization committed to empowering gay men of African descent through education, social support, political advocacy, and health & wellness promotion. Phone: (212) 414-9344.
Andy Stern, Director of State Government Relations, Gay Men's Health Crisis. GMHC is the nation's oldest and largest AIDS organization. Phone: (212) 367-1231.
Willa J. Taylor, Chair of the Board of Directors, National Black Lesbian Gay Leadership Forum. The Forum is the only national organization dedicated to empowering the nation's 2.5 million black lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people. Phone: (212) 501-3247.
Bert Wong, AIDS Prevention Case Worker, Asian Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS. APICHA is a community based organization targeting Asians and Pacific Islanders for HIV-specific information and services. Phone: (718) 457-9662.
Contact: Peg Byron 212-809-8585 x230, 888-987-1984 pager