H.I.V. Teams Warn of Privateness Dangers in How C.D.C. Tracks Virus Samples


The Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention on Friday revised its tips for monitoring the genetic signatures of viruses collected from individuals newly recognized with H.I.V., a controversial apply utilized by state and native well being departments to curb infections.

The up to date coverage inspired well being officers to be extra clear with their communities concerning the monitoring, certainly one of many modifications sought by H.I.V. advocacy organizations involved about how so-called molecular surveillance may violate sufferers’ privateness and civil rights.

However the company stopped wanting adopting extra vital modifications that some advocates had pushed for, akin to permitting well being businesses to choose out in states the place individuals could be prosecuted for transmitting H.I.V.

“We’re in a interval by which well being information is more and more utilized in prison prosecutions, as seen in prosecutions of individuals searching for abortion care or who’ve maybe miscarried,” mentioned Carmel Shachar, a professor at Harvard Regulation Faculty who makes a speciality of well being care. The revised coverage didn’t go far sufficient, she mentioned, to guard individuals with H.I.V.

Dr. Alexandra Oster, who leads the C.D.C.’s molecular surveillance group, mentioned the advantages of this system far exceed the dangers. “We have to do it effectively,” she mentioned. “However we have to hold doing it.”

H.I.V. has a particular genetic signature in every individual that helps docs determine which medicine are more likely to thwart it. However the data can be used to trace its unfold by means of a inhabitants — together with figuring out clusters of people that carry intently associated viruses.

The C.D.C. has for many years used molecular surveillance to trace flu, salmonella and, extra not too long ago, Covid.

In 2018, the C.D.C. started requiring well being departments that obtained federal funding for H.I.V. packages to share such information gleaned from individuals with the virus. Sufferers shouldn’t have to learn that their viral samples are tracked.

Molecular surveillance has recognized greater than 500 H.I.V. clusters within the nation since 2016, the C.D.C. mentioned. Well being officers can then interview individuals within the clusters to establish their sexual or drug-use companions and join them to testing, needle exchanges and medicines that block transmission.

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