Houston AIDS Cases Declining Despite CDC Reports to the Contrary, City Officials Say
New AIDS cases in Houston dropped in 2001, city officials said this week, contradicting a recent CDC report that showed an increase in local diagnoses, the Houston Chronicle reports (Hopper, Houston Chronicle, 3/7). The CDC data, released late last month as part of the agency's mid-year HIV/AIDS surveillance report, showed 275 reports of new AIDS cases in Houston between June 2000 and June 2001, an increase of almost 39% (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/26). City officials, however, said their data indicated 336 new AIDS diagnoses across all of 2001 -- a 50% decrease from the previous year. The Chronicle reports that the "opposing views" stem from a difference in data-tracking methods: City officials plot new AIDS cases by date of diagnosis, while the CDC uses the dates on which cases are reported to health officials by providers. Because AIDS case reports can get "backlogged or delayed for various reasons," the CDC's data may show an "artificial drop in cases one year and a surge the next," a CDC spokesperson said. Houston health officials said local AIDS rates have shown a "drastic and steady decline" since 1992, when 1,728 new cases were diagnosed. Houston Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Kathy Barton credited antiretroviral drugs for the drop in AIDS cases but cautioned that the "encouraging numbers shouldn't lull people" into believing HIV is no longer a concern. "Basically, the number of AIDS cases is going down, the number of AIDS deaths is going down, but the number of (HIV) infections is not going down," she said (Houston Chronicle, 3/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.