Indian Researchers Find Problems With Common Method of Determining HIV Prevalence
Indian researchers conducted a study to determine the accuracy of the "most common" way of estimating HIV prevalence and presented their findings Thursday in a "late-breaker" session at the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto, the Washington Post reports. Generally, scientists conduct HIV tests on pregnant women at public clinics and on men at sexually transmitted infection clinics and adjust those rates to determine a populationwide HIV prevalence. In the India study, researchers took a "population-based" approach, focusing on Andhra Pradesh, a state in south India. They administered HIV tests to a random sample of 14,000 people ages 15 to 49. After making adjustments for certain high-risk groups that were undersampled, researchers determined that the state has about 47,000 HIV-positive residents. Previous estimates based on HIV testing at clinics indicated the state had 113,000 HIV-positive people. Part of the reason for the "inflated estimate" could be that researchers using the population-based method of estimating HIV prevalence found a higher HIV prevalence in lower socioeconomic groups, according to the Post. About 25% of pregnant women using public prenatal clinics and most of the men using public STI clinics came from households with lower incomes -- factors that would have "produced inflated estimates for the whole population," the Post reports. Study author Lalit Dandona of the Administrative Staff College of India said that based on the researchers' findings, estimates of India's overall HIV prevalence need "substantial downward revision" (Brown, Washington Post, 8/18). NACO in a report released in April said there were 72,000 new reported HIV cases in India in 2005, increasing the total number of HIV-positive adults living in the country to about 5.2 million. According to the "2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic" released in May by UNAIDS, India had 5.7 million people living with HIV at the end of 2005, compared with 5.5 million in South Africa, meaning that India has overtaken South Africa as the country with the highest number of HIV-positive people. However, according to UNAIDS, because of India's population of 1.1 billion -- compared with South Africa's 44 million -- the country's HIV prevalence still is considered low. The Indian government has created an independent committee of experts to determine the validity of the UNAIDS estimate, according to Sujatha Rao, director-general of the country's National AIDS Control Organization (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/5).
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