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what are the actual numbers?
      04/05/00 01:37 AM

Hello. I just discovered this board and am very thankful. About two weeks ago I did something very stupid. I have not told anyone about it until now and have been trying to compartmentalize it away and deal with it by myself. Basically, I had unsafe sex with someone who I had never met before and have not seen since. I was under the influence of alcohol, but that is no excuse. Along from generally freaking out about how and why I could have done this and questioning my basic sanity, I am very, very worried about having aids. It is still a bit early to get tested, so I am just trying to hold the fort.

I have a strong background in mathematics and have a deep understanding of statistics. I have become utterly frustrated and annoyed at the lack of actual statistal odds (i.e. real numerical percentages) for how likely it would be to contract aids after a single episode of unsafe sex with someone who is HIV+. The "official" information that I have easily been able to get my hands on simply states such vagueries as "very risky" or "significant chance of contraction" for the most risky forms of sexual contact, and "low risk" for the not-so-risky forms. This means nothing to me. In my mind, their saying "high risk" could mean anything from .5% to 95% chances, and "low risk" could mean anything from .0001% to 5% - I have absolutely no idea what a doctor means numerically speaking when they say "high risk" as opposed to "low risk" or "moderate risk". I need NUMBERS!!!

I have had doctors tell me that they considered certain moles on my back to be a "high risk", but when I explained to them that that meant nothing to me and that I wanted an actual number, it turns out that they considered something on the order of 1 in 1,000 odds to be of high risk. The reason they consider such low odds to be a very high risk is because of the stakes at hand: your mole turns into a malignant melanoma, you are almost certainly going to die. Could it be that the "high risk" that is talked about regarding unsafe, unprotected sex with an HIV+ partner is also in the 1 in 1,000 odds range?

I could spend a number of weeks doing research and try to unearth these numbers myself, but it is an outrage to me that they are not easily accessible to the public. Perhaps officials are not disclosing such numbers openly because they believe the "average person" might be, on some level, inspired to "play the odds" if he knows an exact statistic. Particularly if it really is a fairly small chance (less than 5% odds, in my mind) that a single exposure will result in contracting HIV.

The same problem exists for smoking. It is fairly tricky to get your hands on actual percantages for what your odds are of dying from smoking if you smoke such and such an amount per day for such and such a number of years. Everyone knows the total number of deaths, and you can also get your hands on the total number of smokers. From this you can draw a crude statistic. But it is very hard to find exact breakdowns of what your odds are if you smoke a particular amount. Everyone says it is "very risky", but almost nobody has any actual numbers in their head for what the odds actually are.

Perhaps such a policy to obscure exact statistical information (if it has really been consciously made) is in fact wise. The existance of the gambling industry and the state lotteries is a good indicator of the general public's ability to make intelligent decisions when given exact statistics to base their actions on. However, if such statistics exist (I realize that they may not!) it is of my opinion that people have the right to know about them.

If anyone can point me to any actual statistics that are out there and can be trusted, I would be most grateful. If not, I am curious about people's opinions about the fact that such critically important data seems to be kept well hidden from the general public.


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Subject Posted by Posted on
* what are the actual numbers? Stats 04/05/00 01:37 AM
. * Re: what are the actual numbers? Cece   04/05/00 01:39 AM
. * Re: what are the actual numbers? Unimportant   04/05/00 01:38 AM
. * Re: what are the actual numbers? Keri   04/05/00 01:37 AM

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