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Population Mix: HIV Infections Through Sex

Apr 21, 1997

Hi Rick. I read in the Wall street Journal (4/16 p. B11 re: Life Insurance Covg.) that an estimated 20,000 people per year in the U.S. are infected through sexual contact. How does that population break down between male vs female and, within each of those categories, heterosexual vs homosexual - either your own estimate or someone elses. Looking at AIDS cases (CDC) data does not offer an indication since these individuals were infected long ago. Thanks for doing a great job.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

I do not know what the incidence (number of new cases of HIV per year) is in the United States, so I cannot tell you whether your figure of 20,000/year is accurate or not. In fact, nobody knows what the true incidence of HIV is in the United States (number of new HIV cases per year). This is because only 26 of the 50 states have HIV reporting (although AIDS is reportable in all 50 states). We therefore do not have enough information to predict the number of new cases of HIV (not AIDS) per year. It has been estimated that the total prevalence of Americans now living with HIV, is between 650,000 and 900,000. But because HIV is reportable in only 26 of the 50 states, even this figure is just a rough estimate.

For the reported cases of HIV that we have, we do have a breakdown on how people became infected, their gender, race, and so forth. However, these data have only limited use since many states do not have HIV reporting. If you are interested in seeing what HIV statistics we do have, you can go to the CDC website at:

The HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, available at this site, gives statistical data for both HIV infections and AIDS.

You bring up a good point that AIDS statistics do not tell us the scope of the epidemic today. A diagnosis of AIDS may not be made until an average of 10 years after infection. Therefore, AIDS data (gender, risk factors etc.) tell us what was happening an average of 10 years ago. HIV data tell us what is happening today. But since HIV is not reportable in all states, our HIV data are of limited value.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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