Estimates of HIV Cases in New York City ‘Overstated’ in Early 1990s, Study Says
Previous estimates of the number of HIV-positive individuals living in New York City were "overstated," according to a recent report by the American Council on Science and Health, titled "AIDS in New York City: Update 2001." While the city Department of Health in 1990 estimated that there were 200,000 HIV cases citywide, the report, written by Dr. Robert Klein, professor of medicine, epidemiology and social medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, states that a "scarcity of data caused this overestimation." Since New York City began reporting AIDS cases in 1981, 116,316 have been diagnosed, which includes 72,207 AIDS cases known dead, through March 31, 2000. The report notes, however, that "without a thorough overview," the statistics "may lead to a misperception that AIDS is no longer a serious problem in New York City. In fact, the number of persons living with AIDS in New York City has increased dramatically and the disease still poses a threat to public health." The report found that "very few reliable statistics exist pertaining to the exact prevalence of HIV infection" in the city. ACSH President Dr. Elizabeth Whelan added, "Back in 1990, ACSH issued a report on AIDS in New York -- and our predictions for the future were grim. Now in 2001, we realize that the initial estimates on HIV infection were significantly inflated, and we are observing the dramatic effect of antiviral medications. AIDS is still bad news for New York City, but the news is not as bad as we once predicted" (ACSH release, 6/14).
A New York Times op-ed written by columnist John Tierney recalls that in 1988, the city estimated that there were 400,000 HIV-positive city residents, while the ACSH report states that there were less than 120,000 cases diagnosed in New York City between 1981 and early 2000. Tierney writes, "That toll still makes AIDS a horrific tragedy, of course, but the disease never caused the widespread plague prophesied by so many activists, journalists and researchers. In their zeal for attention and money, they didn't let facts interfere with fearmongering" (Tierney, New York Times, 6/15).