CDC cautions about report of rise in new HIV infections

Washington Post: Annual estimates may double

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is responding to a recent Washington Post report that CDC estimates of new HIV infections in Americans annually may be 50% higher than previously believed.1 A statement released by Kevin Fenton, MD, director of the CDC National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, included the following points:

"Recent media reports have speculated about CDC's pending estimates of new HIV infections in the United States. CDC emphasizes that the new estimates are not yet final. In recent years, CDC has worked to develop an innovative system designed to estimate the number of new HIV infections in a given year. As a result of new technology that can distinguish recent from longstanding infections, the new system will provide the clearest picture to date of new HIV infections in the United States. Given the importance of the new estimates in guiding HIV prevention policy and programs, CDC's public health responsibility is to ensure accurate information. The estimates have been submitted for further analysis and rigorous scientific review to ensure the accuracy of the complex new methods and of the estimates themselves. The new estimates utilize complex methods based on a number of statistical assumptions. Any modification to those assumptions during the scientific review process will affect the final estimates. It would not be responsible for CDC to discuss specific data before we are certain that the new estimates are reliable."

Citing anonymous sources, the Post reported that the estimated number of new HIV infections each year will be moved from 40,000 to the 55,000-60,000 range. The higher estimate is the product of a new method of testing blood samples that can identify those who were infected within the previous five months. The higher estimate is based on data from 19 states and large cities that have been extrapolated to the nation as a whole, the newspaper reported.


  1. Brown D. Estimate of AIDS Cases in U.S. Rises. The Washington Post. Dec. 1, 2007.