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Number of Annual New HIV Cases in U.S. Might Be Higher Than Previously Thought

Posted by pozlife on December 6, 2007

December 3, 2007

The number of new annual HIV cases in the U.S. could be as much as 50% higher than previous estimates, according to U.S. health officials, who are expected to release new data next year, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Researchers and public health officials who have been briefed on the new data have said CDC next year likely will release figures indicating that in 2005, new HIV cases were 20% to 50% higher than previously thought — translating to a total of up to 60,000 new cases annually. The final number is pending peer review by a scientific journal, the Journal reports (Chase/McKay, Wall Street Journal, 12/1).

CDC for more than 10 years reported that 40,000 new HIV cases occur annually in the U.S. and said that the HIV epidemic in the U.S. is stable (Brown, Washington Post, 12/1). According to the Journal, CDC in recent years has developed new testing technology and has updated its methodology to yield more accurate data. The new estimate was derived using state data and new antibody testing technology that can distinguish infections that occurred in the past 160 days from older infections, the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 12/1). Nineteen states and cities are performing the new antibody test along with an older test to calculate the number of new cases, the New York Times reports.

According to the Times, the Washington Blade on Nov. 14 reported that the new estimate showed that between 58,000 to 63,000 people became HIV-positive during the most recent 12-month period. An unnamed federal official said the new estimate was higher than the old one but not as high as reported in the Blade. Tom Skinner, a CDC spokesperson, said that the agency is "not in a position to say one way or another whether the numbers will actually be up from current estimates" until the peer review is completed.

It is unclear to what extent more people were becoming HIV-positive or if the new numbers are a better estimate than the old ones, the Times reports (Harris, New York Times, 12/2). It will take additional years using the new methodology to determine whether HIV cases are increasing or have been underreported, the Post reports (Washington Post, 12/1).

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Kevin Fenton — director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention — emphasized that the "new estimates are not yet final," adding that the "new system will provide the clearest picture to date of new HIV infections" in the U.S. (Reuters, 12/2).

David Holtgrave, an epidemiologist with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said it has been clear for at least one year that the old estimate would increase. He added that from 2001 to 2005, there were 37,000 cases annually in two-thirds of the country. "With just a little simple math, you get more than 40,000 new cases," Holtgrave said. According to Julie Davids, executive director of the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project, the new estimate "shows that prevention efforts are insufficient" (New York Times, 12/2).

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