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WSJ Article Prompts AHF to Renew Call for CDC to Release Stark New HIV Data
Date:12/1/2007

Article Hints CDC's Delay Suggests Dramatic Increase

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A 'Wall Street Journal' article headlined, "Upward Revision of U.S. AIDS Cases Likely" (Marilyn Chase and Betsy McKay, December 1, 2007), in today's paper that suggests a delay by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in releasing its latest data on HIV rates and incidence in the US may support the widespread speculation among AIDS advocates nationwide that the numbers will reflect a stark increase in HIV cases in the US--figures many expect to be up to 50% or more higher than the previous CDC estimate of 40,000 new HIV cases per year.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) will host a media availability Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (Dec. 1, 2, 3) to call on the CDC to immediately release this newest HIV/AIDS data, which the CDC recently stated was submitted to an academic journal and is under, "peer-review to ensure that the methods, emerging data, and conclusions are carefully reviewed for scientific accuracy and rigor ... " AHF's call on the CDC to immediately release the data comes on the eve of the CDC's 2007 National HIV Prevention Conference to be held in Atlanta, Georgia starting tomorrow (December 2-5).

WHAT: Media Availability

AHF Calls for the CDC to Release Stark New HIV Data-Likely 50%

Increase to 60,000 New Reported Cases Annually

WHEN: Saturday, December 1st

Sunday, December 2nd -- All Day

Monday, December 3rd

WHO: Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President

Whitney Engeran, III, Director, Public Health Division, AIDS

Healthcare Foundation

MEDIA CONTACTS: Ged Kenslea, AHF Communications Director

+1.323.791.5526 mobile +1.323.860.5225 work

Lori Yeghiayan, AHF Associate Communications Director

+1.323.377.4312 mobile +1.323.860.5227 work

In a letter dated November 26, 2007 and sent to the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) and others, the CDC reveals its plan to release the 2005 HIV incidence estimates "in the coming months." The letter further states that the new numbers will be the first since the agency implemented a new system of data collection and analysis that they say will "provide more accurate and timely HIV incidence estimates."

The CDC letter is likely a response to widespread speculation among stakeholders that the latest incidence numbers will reveal an astronomical rise in the estimate of new cases-speculation that may have reached fever pitch after the National Minority AIDS Council-sponsored U.S. Conference on AIDS held in Palm Springs earlier this month. Stating that the goal is to release the data "as soon as possible," the CDC letter goes on to say that, although the new incidence figures currently exist in manuscript form, the agency is submitting it to "an academic journal for peer review to ensure that the methods, emerging data, and conclusions are carefully reviewed for scientific accuracy and rigor before they are published. The manuscript is currently under review and decisions about publication are forthcoming."

"We call on the CDC to immediately release its new findings, as it is widely believed that the new HIV incidence numbers will show a startling increase in reported infections, constituting a public health crisis," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "The CDC is not an academic institution charged with collecting data to analyze for its own sake. It is a government body with an obligation to disseminate crucial information-such as a 50% increase in reported HIV cases-so that it may be used to protect the public health. The 2008 federal budget is being finalized now, and it is only right that Congress and the public at large have access to accurate information to ensure that public health policy and resource- allocation decisions can be made to ensure an effective response to the epidemic. That can't happen when the CDC is withholding information about the true nature of this country's epidemic. We hope that this is not yet another instance of the Bush Administration's suppression of information that could be damaging to their image, especially in light of the fact that the spike in new infections is, at least in part, likely due to failed policies of the administration, including the promotion of 'abstinence-only' prevention messages and the failure to promote condom use."

The letter acknowledges that there has been strong community reaction in anticipation of the new-and likely much higher-incidence numbers and urges stakeholders to avoid speculation as the months go by, arguing that "the HIV prevention needs and challenges in the United States are too great to allow misinformation to guide program and policy decisions."

"We agree that the needs and challenges presented by this country's AIDS epidemic are too great to have prevention and treatment programs and policy decisions decided based on misinformation. Unfortunately, that is exactly what's happening when, as the 2008 federal budget is being finalized, it is being done so based on outdated numbers that are far below what today's infection rate truly may be," added Weinstein. "It is unwise for the CDC to sit on this crucial public health information pondering publication dates, when people's lives and health hang in the balance."

About AHF

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the US' largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare, research, prevention and education provider, as well as the operator of California's largest alternative, community-based HIV testing program, administering over 15,000 tests per year. AHF currently provides treatment, care and support services to more than 61,000 individuals in 19 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia. Additional information is available at http://www.aidshealth.org


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SOURCE AIDS Healthcare Foundation
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