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Disturbing statistic

Dec 15, 1997

Dear Rick,

Would you please explain the 26% of women who were reported with aids in 1996 that had no known risk factor? Do we as the public need to worry about contracting it casually? Thank you.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

In regard to cases of AIDS where the persons risk has not been identified, let me tell you the "statistic behind the statistic". I'll use USA AIDS statistics as an example. Out of 612,078 cases of AIDS in the USA, in only 944 cases, were we not able to determine the source of infection (as of 30 June, 1997). Of these cases, this includes heterosexual contact with a person not known to be HIV positive, persons who chose not to disclose their risk factors for HIV (which is not an unusual occurrence), and persons with possible occupational exposures. These 944 cases included:

1) Individuals having a history of other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) indicating high risk sexual exposures,

2) Individuals with Hepatitis infections (Hepatitis B and C share similar routes of transmission as HIV),

3) Individuals having a history of non-IV drug use (alcohol and other judgement affecting drugs, have a well-known link to HIV, due to behavior changes while under the influence of these drugs),

4) Individuals having occupational exposures to blood or body fluids, and

5) Heterosexual contact (most of the worlds AIDS cases are transmitted specifically through heterosexual contact).

So out of the literally thousands of cases of AIDS, in only a small number of cases were we not able to determine a definitive source of infection. But many of these individuals did have known risk behaviors, and markers of risky exposures. There is no evidence that anybody has been infected through casual contact worldwide.

It is very easy to misinterpret statistics when it comes to how a person became infected. For example, if a person refuses to cooperate with health officials or doctors, is lost to follow-up if they move out of the area, or if they die before we can ask them their risk factors, these individuals would be classified as having an unknown risk factor for HIV infection. This does not mean that HIV is being transmitted in a new way. What it does mean is that we were unable to collect the information. Statistics like these can be very easily misinterpreted.

In summary, it is important to understand that statistics and scientific reports can be easily misinterpreted. I hope this additional information has cleared up some of the misunderstanding.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to e-mail me at "" or call me at (Nationwide). I'm glad to help!

obsession with Acute Retroviral Syndrome
Risk to others?

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