Saturday, August 02, 2008

CDC, AIDS Inc Talking Points: New HIV Stats

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention HIV/AIDS leaders on August 3, the first day of the international AIDS conference in Mexico City, will unveil long-awaited new HIV stats for the USA.

The figures have been much-debated within federal government and community-based AIDS organizations since last fall, and no matter what the numbers actually are at tomorrow's release, expect lots of comments and scrutiny from all quarters of the AIDS world.

Two forces, the CDC, and CHAMP, Community HIV AIDS Mobilization Project, in anticipation of the new stats, have released documents designed to help the public have a fuller frame in which to view the numbers and how they are gathered, not to mention the stats mean in determining the success or failure of HIV prevention programs.

First up is the CHAMP 7-page talking points memo, created in collaboration with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, titled "Preparing for the New U.S. HIV Incidence Estimate." The central point of these groups is to reframe the stats debate into one about funding for community groups. Basically, no matter what CDC releases or how they shape the meaning of the latest, revised numbers, CHAMP wants to focus to be on getting more federal dollars.

What's missing, of course, is any call for great accountability of prevention groups and their failures to achieve maximum effectiveness. You'll find nothing in the CHAMP document demanding prevention groups promote and distribute anal condoms for gay male sex, messages encouraging sero-sorting, or that the groups endorse and explain PEP, post-exposure prophylaxis.

And in July, the CDC web-posted a terrifically informative two-pager about HIV and AIDS surveillance, the difference between the two categories, and how new and recent infections are counted in some USA stats.

The underlying tone of the slim federal document is to educate members of the press, who will soon be writing about the new stats, and to give the general public a better understanding of current USA surveillance practices.

Taken together, the documents shed a lot of light on the arguments and theories that will be an integral part of the discussion that gets underway tomorrow from Mexico City when the CDC finally unveils the current HIV incidence numbers.

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