Global HIV/AIDS Estimates ‘Constantly Being Improved,’ Boston Globe Letter to Editor Says
An article published in the June 20 Boston Globe could "lead readers to think that AIDS is not as pervasive as once thought," which "couldn't be further from the truth," Peter Ghys, UNAIDS manager of epidemic and impact monitoring, writes in a Globe letter to the editor. However, the "actual number of people living with HIV globally continues to grow at alarming rates due to new HIV infections," Ghys says (Ghys, Boston Globe, 6/27). The Globe earlier this month reported that some HIV/AIDS experts say that global HIV prevalence could be overstated because of certain statistical models and declines in HIV prevalence in several countries. Some HIV/AIDS experts believe the 40 million HIV positive people worldwide estimate could be inflated by 25% to 50%. U.N. epidemiologists and statisticians who have worked on current estimates say that the numbers for some countries will be lower in a report to be released before the XV International AIDS Conference that will be held in Bangkok, Thailand, in July. The UNAIDS report, which will include HIV prevalence estimates for 2003, is expected to say that HIV prevalence is declining in East Africa, leveling off in West Africa and sustaining a high rate in Southern Africa, according to the Globe (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/21). The 2004 UNAIDS report on global HIV/AIDS will include revised HIV prevalence estimates for previous years, Ghys says, adding, "Estimates are constantly being improved on the basis of new data and research findings." Although the Globe says that the new data are because of "errors in statistical models," UNAIDS "believe[s] these are improvements that continue to provide us with a more accurate picture of the AIDS epidemic," Ghys says. There is "no gold standard" for HIV surveillance, Ghys says, adding that HIV estimates -- whether "based on household surveys or surveys of pregnant women" -- should be "assessed critically as the epidemic evolves." Ghys concludes that attaining 100% certainty about global HIV prevalence would "require repeatedly testing every person in the world for HIV, which is logistically impossible" (Boston Globe, 6/27).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.