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Confidentiality is an essential part of testing for HIV. The usual practice is of using a code to represent the patient’s name. Commonly, this has included the date of birth. However, no definite guidelines are available to standardise the coding methods used in various situations. This has often led to confusion with results, a situation that is to be avoided at all costs, especially in an illness such as HIV.
With the increasing longevity of persons with HIV, it is essential to have a coding system that will stand the test of time. Difficulties have arisen with the manner in which the name is represented in the code and in the format in which the date is expressed. Some centres have further complicated the issue by asking patients to choose their own code. As the patient is advised not to choose his birthday or any easily identifiable number (ridiculous as birth dates are the usual identifier used by doctors), codes are chosen at random, and hence often forgotten. Those of us who have forgotten our automated teller machine card personal identification numbers will testify that this is a common occurrence.
The problem …