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CDC Counselor Says Stats Wrong
Oct 13, 2003

Dr. Bob:

I called the CDC hotline about a variety of issues. Two things the counselor said didn't seem to jive with other things and I thought you could set me straight.

1. I thought HIV was hard to catch. The woman on the hotline said unprotected anal, even without ejaculation, was a very easy way to catch HIV and in fact, quite likely to happen.

2. I asked about the stat that about a million Americans have HIV. She laughed and said that total was a "web myth" and that in fact the total is closer to 5 to 7 million.

What's your take on these?

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi,

What's my take on this? That's easy. That Bozo at the CDC hotline should not be giving out advice? I'm sure she means well, but she really shouldn't give out misleading information.

HIV is indeed "hard to catch" compared to other STD's. Unprotected anal sex is risky, but how does she define "likely to happen?" The CDC's own statistics indicate the per episode risk for unprotected anal receptive sex with an HIV-positive partner is up to 3 percent. Each unprotected episode carries the same statistical risk.

How many Americans have HIV? The correct answer is that we don't know. The only way to tell would be to test everyone, right? Certainly many people may not realize they are positive. Once someone develops full-blown AIDS, the condition is reported to the health department, so we do have accurate statistics on AIDS but not HIV disease.

Let's hope the counselor you connected with at the CDC wasn't really a counselor, but just a janitor who happened to pick up the phone while the real counselor was out getting a Starbucks.

Stay well. Stay informed.

Dr. Bob



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