HIV Cases Show Huge Drop in India, but It's a Glitch in the Statistics
May 31, 2005
A 95 percent drop in new HIV infections between 2003 and 2004 in India reported last week by the government's National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) stemmed from a change in surveillance methodologies, according to a statistician who worked on the project. Using figures compiled by two independent research organizations, NACO reported that India had only 28,000 new HIV infections in 2004, compared with 520,000 new infections in 2003.
In 2003, a change in data collection methods included an increase in sentinel surveillance sites and an expansion of testing from mostly high-risk populations to include low-risk populations, said M. Thomas, an independent statistician who worked on the survey.
New HIV infection figures for 2003 also included many cases that erroneously had not been recorded in previous years, making the number of new HIV infections between 2002 and 2003 appear very large, said Denis Broun, the Indian coordinator for UNAIDS. So, while "the overall estimate was realistic" for 2004, the figures are incomparable with 2003 numbers, said Broun.
Despite the methodological changes, both the World Health Organization and UNAIDS said that HIV's spread in India appears to be stabilizing. "The growth in HIV infections is flattening out" in high-prevalence states, said Broun. WHO and UNAIDS officials also embraced India's surveillance methodology.
India's government did little to explain the methodological changes, infuriating activists who doubted that new HIV infections had truly plunged so radically. India has long rejected reports that its infection rate could dramatically rise in coming years.
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This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.