HIV Surveillance in Vermont

Frequently Asked Questions

What is HIV surveillance?

HIV surveillance is the process of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data on individuals infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the virus that causes AIDS. This data includes information such as age, gender, county of residence, and date of onset of the disease.
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How will HIV surveillance data be used?

These data will be used to help plan and evaluate programs to prevent infection with HIV, and programs to provide treatment and support services for people in Vermont living with HIV. It will lead to better informed decisions about allocating resources and planning for future prevention and treatment service needs.

Who is responsible for HIV surveillance?

The Department of Health, in collaboration with physicians, nurses, laboratory directors, and others who are required to report cases of infection with HIV, is responsible for HIV surveillance.
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When did HIV surveillance begin?

HIV surveillance was implemented in Vermont on March 24, 2000, as a result of legislation passed by the Vermont legislature in 1999.

Why is HIV surveillance important?

Recent treatment advances, such as antiretroviral therapy, have slowed the progression of HIV infection to AIDS. As a result, people are living longer with HIV and the incidence of AIDS has declined. AIDS data cannot give us a reliable estimate of the HIV epidemic or trends in HIV transmission. For example, AIDS data do not include persons with recent HIV infection, such as adolescents. HIV surveillance data will help us more effectively target our prevention efforts and prevent HIV in Vermont.
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How is HIV data reported?

The current HIV surveillance system is non-name-based. It uses coded unique identifiers consisting of two letters and four numbers. Under this system, the names of people infected with HIV are not reported to the Department of Health.

Vermont is working toward a change to name-based HIV reporting. Name-based reporting is the system all states use for AIDS diagnoses. In Vermont, name-based AIDS reporting has been in place for over 20 years. Most states also use name-based reporting for HIV cases. Vermont, however, is one of four remaining states that use code-based, rather than name-based, reporting for HIV diagnoses. As of December, 2006, all states have made the commitment to move to a name-based system.

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How will HIV surveillance affect AIDS surveillance?

AIDS surveillance will continue to be conducted as it has been since 1982, with names of cases reported confidentially. Separate forms are used for reporting AIDS and infection with HIV.

How will results of HIV tests be kept confidential?

Any person or institution required to report the results of HIV tests must have written policies in place that ensure the confidentiality of the information. In addition, the Department of Health must meet strict security standards established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High-level security measures protect the building, room, and computer where the data are kept. Data are released only in aggregate form. The Department of Health does not know the names of people infected with HIV.
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Is anonymous HIV testing still available in Vermont?

Yes. Test results from these sites will not be reported to the Department of Health, since patient-identifying information is not collected. Information about the anonymous testing program may be obtained by calling the Vermont AIDS Hotline at 1-800-882-AIDS.

If you would like more information about HIV surveillance in Vermont, please contact the HIV Surveillance Coordinator at (802) 863-7286.

Publications

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