Anger at “laissez-faire attitude” as US HIV infections up 48%
A US Centre for Disease Ccontrol HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, that was quietly released recently, shows a “catastrophic” 48% increase in US HIV infections between the years 2005 and 2006.
The number of infections jumped to 52,878 new reported cases in 2006 up from 35,537 reported in 2005.
With the lifetime costs of one HIV-infected individual’s treatment and care estimated to be $600,000 (£302,000) , the new CDC surveillance numbers suggest a $36 billion aggregate cost for caring for these nearly 53,000 individuals.
“Catastrophe,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
“There is no other word to describe these CDC numbers which underscore the wholesale failure of US HIV prevention efforts.
“We’d called on the CDC as far back as November to release the numbers, which they had in their possession at that time, so that Congress could consider the statistics as they finalised the budget and reapportioned and re-prioritised money for HIV/AIDS services based on need.
“The CDC stonewalled, stating that they were awaiting publication of a peer-reviewed journal article on the data, something that appears to not have happened after all.
“These new HIV numbers and the CDC’s laissez-faire attitude do not bode well for the nation’s ability to address its own growing epidemic.”
Whitney Engeran, III, Director, Public Health Division, and AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said:
“We now face $36 billion in costs associated with lifetime care and treatment of all these infected individuals.
“No matter how the CDC tries to spin these numbers, the fact remains that the numbers they’ve been reporting for years have been inaccurate, and have incorrectly portrayed the US epidemic as static at roughly 40,000 new infections per year.
“We missed a crucial opportunity to work with Congress to adjust the budget to better reflect the needs of the populations affected because of the CDC’s delay in reporting these numbers.”
In a community letter dated November 26th 2007 and sent to the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) and others, the CDC revealed its plan to release the 2005 HIV incidence estimates “in the coming months.”
The letter further stated that the new numbers will be the first since the agency implemented a new system of data collection and analysis that they say will “provide more accurate and timely HIV incidence estimates.”
The CDC letter was likely a response to the widespread speculation among stakeholders that the latest incidence numbers would reveal an astronomical rise in the estimate of new cases, which has turned out to be true.
In the letter, the CDC stated that the goal was to release the data “as soon as possible.”
The CDC letter went on to say that, although the new incidence figures currently existed in manuscript form, the agency was submitting it to “an academic journal for peer review to ensure that the methods, emerging data, and conclusions are carefully reviewed for scientific accuracy and rigor before they are published.
“The manuscript is currently under review and decisions about publication are forthcoming.”
“We hope that this is not yet another instance of the Bush Administration’s suppression of information that could be damaging to their image,” added AHF’s Weinstein.
“Especially in light of the fact that the spike in new infections is, at least in part, likely due to failed policies of the administration, including the promotion of ‘abstinence-only’ prevention messages and the failure to promote condom use.”
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the USA’a largest HIV/AIDS organisation.
AHF currently provides treatment, care and support services to more than 65,000 individuals in 20 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia. Additional information is available at www.aidshealth.org.
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