The Myth of Exceptionalism: The History of Venereal Disease Reporting in the Twentieth Century

Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 31 (4):624-637 (2003)


As therapeutic advances in the treatment of AIDS began to emerge in the late 1980s and public health began to have more to offer than just the threat, or the perceived threat, of quarantine or partner notification, fissures began to appear in the alliance against named HIV reporting that had emerged a few years earlier. In 1989, New York City’s Health Commissioner stated that the prospects of early clinical intervention warranted “a shift toward a disease-control approach to HIV infection along the lines of classic tuberculosis practices,” including the “reporting of seropositives.”Although his proposal met with fierce and effective resistance, it is now clear that his call represented part of a national trend. The CDC continued to press for cases of HIV to he reported by name to health departments, an effort that assumed the dimensions of a campaign. It was supported by a growing number of public health officials.

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