Monday, June 01, 2015

NYT, Early HIV Rx, SF Infections Fell in 2004, not 2010

Here's some of what the New York Times' science reporter Donald G. McNeil, Jr. wrote last week about new research confirming that use of AIDS drugs by newly-diagnosed HIV poz people is of great benefit to the patient:

"'This is fantastic,' said Dr. Susan P. Buchbinder, director of H.I.V. prevention research for the San Francisco Department of Public Health. Her department began recommending immediate treatment in 2010, and new infections in that city have dropped substantially since then. 'The evidence for this has been building for quite some time, but now it’s clear that people should be offered treatment right away and told why it’s beneficial.'"

What is of concern to me is McNeil implying HIV infections in San Francisco have significantly fallen because of the DPH recommendation in 2010. While infections have dropped in the past give years, let's look at the latest stats from the department.

The green line in this graph from the most recent HIV epidemiology report shows infections began falling in 2007-2008, a few years before DPH recommended early use of cocktails.

Looking back at the 2008 epidemiology surveillance, we see that there was a high number of new HIV diagnoses in 2004 for both categories of reporting by California law. For individuals whose diagnoses were reported by the names-based system or the combined names- and code-based system, the numbers were falling many years before DPH urged poz folks in the early stages of their infections to take AIDS drugs.

My point is that San Francisco's HIV stats began a serious decline way before 2010 and the Times should not have reported the drop since then was due to DPH's recommendations. Certainly, more poz people on cocktails helps them stay healthier longer and their low infectivity reduces new transmissions, data clearly shows HIV began falling at least in 2004-2005.

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