Friday, December 17, 2010

NYC's HIV Stats Fell 33%
From 2001 to 2008

One important factor has been missing from the heated debate this week over a new controversial HIV prevention ad from the New York City Department of Health: HIV stats.

The DOH has posted eight years worth of annual HIV statistics as PDF's, and I've looked at them and calculate that the raw numbers have dropped 33% from 2001 to 2008. Look at the stats for total HIV diagnoses:

2001: 5,684
2002: 5,091
2003: 4,570
2004: 4,186
2005: 4,195
2006: 4,030
2007: 3,965
2008: 3,809

The health department's surveillance reports further breakdown the stats by HIV diagnoses with and without concurrent AIDS diagnoses, and those tables show corresponding declines.

Looking for an informed devil's advocate to view these stats and my contention that the NYC HIV stats have dropped, I turned to longtime Gay City News reporter Duncan Osborne for his opinion. He said:

When you look at rates of HIV infection in New York City you will see that the rate among gay/bi men is stable and eight to ten times higher than any other group and that the rates among all other groups are declining. Then within gay/bi men, the rate among subsets of men by age or race probably vary as well.

The story at the link gives you a snapshot of this, though how I figured this is not the best way to measure incidence.

If we assume that 3.7 percent is the incidence rate, and that is in line with earlier estimates here in the city, then after just five years at that rate 18.5 percent of the population being tested is infected. The five year estimate is reasonable. That's one out of five men. That's a disaster by any measure.

And remember that it is possible to have declining or stable rates in one group of gay men and increasing rates in another group of gay men. For example, it may be that older white gay men have a stable or even falling rate while the rate among young African-American and Latino men is through the roof. 

The declining overall NYC HIV stats in the past eight years, coupled with the additional info and stats from Duncan, illustrate some of the complexities involved in determining rates of infections and in diverse populations. All of these figures, and the inherent nuances of them, ought to be key components when the health department and the gay community are developing social marketing campaigns.

I would like for the NYC DOH to publicly discuss the falling HIV stats, why they're down, and how best to keep the numbers of infections stable or declining further.

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