CDC: lying via statistics
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/04/08
“Estimates of New HIV Infections in the United States”, labeled generically “CDC HIV/AIDS Facts” and dated August 2008, says:
More infections occurred among young people under 30 (aged 13-29) than any other age group (34%, or 19,200), (Figure 8), followed by persons 30-39 (31% or 17,400). These data confirm that HIV is an epidemic primarily of young people and underscores the critical need to reach each new generation of young people with HIV prevention services. Persons over age 50 continue to account for a relatively small proportion of new infections.”
It’s a plain lie, whose deceitfulness is artfully accentuated by this Figure, that “These data confirm that HIV is an epidemic primarily of young people”. The misleading impression of concentration among younger people is created by grouping 17 years into 13-29, and only 10 years into 30-39 and 40-49; and by presenting numbers of new infections instead of RATES of new infection among the different age groups.
These are standard tricks for lying by means of statistics: compare groups that are not properly comparable (13-29 and 30-39), and use visual illustrations because those carry for most people more impact than numbers.
The data come from Hall et al., “Estimation of HIV Incidence in the United States”, JAMA 300  520-529. There, Table 2 does show the rates (per 100,000):
13-29, 26.8; 30-39, 42.6; 40-49, 30.7; 50-99, 6.5.
In other words, the people most at risk for new infections are in the 30-39 age group, not the 13-29 group.
The misleading presentation, this sleight of evidence, is needed to make it appear that “HIV” is like every other sexually transmitted infection, where the rates and risks of infection are greatest among adolescents and people in their early twenties.
Another way of exposing the fraud is to calculate the median age for “new infections”.
Table 1 in Hall et al. gives the numbers as 13-29, 14,100; 30-39, 12,500; 40-49, 9,900; ≥50, 4,300. Note once again how grouping 17 years (13-29) together creates the impression of “bottom-heavy”. But the total number of “new infections” is 40,800. Half of that is 20,400. The median age is the age at which there are as many above as below that age. 20,400 minus 14,100 leaves 6,300, so the median age for “new infections” is somewhere in the range 30-39. Taking a linear approximation, 6,300/12,500 = ~5.0; in other words, the median age for incurring “new infections” in 2006 was, according to the official sources, 35 years of age.
As I’ve repeated ad nauseam, everything about HIV/AIDS is at a peak in the age range 35-45, and has been since “AIDS” was first described in the early 1980s: new “infections”, new “AIDS” diagnoses, deaths from “AIDS” or from “HIV disease”, most frequent “HIV-positive” tests. There are minor variations by race and by sex, but the maximum rates are in the range 35-45 with almost no exceptions (an interesting one being repeat blood donors).
It is nothing short of deliberate deception to claim that “new infections” of HIV are concentrated among young people. One has this choice between two possibilities:
1. The people at CDC who gather and analyze and disseminate HIV/AIDS statistics are incompetent in statistics, strangely enough with the incompetence always producing effects that embellish the official position,
2. They know exactly what they’re doing, and deliberately employ well-known, frequently described * statistical sleights-of-evidence to produce misleading impressions to bolster the official dogma.
Make your own choice.
Either way, as one who became captivated by science decades ago, thinking it an activity where truth-seeking and truth-observing were the norm, I find it simply too sad for words.
* Joel Best, Damned lies and statistics: untangling numbers from the media, politicians, and activists, 2001; More damned lies and statistics: how numbers confuse public issues, 2004; Darrell Huff, How to lie with statistics, 1954, reissued 1993.
That Huff’s book deserved to be re-issued 40 years after its first publication gives a sense of how little the public or the popular media have absorbed its lessons. CDC personnel, on the other hand, and HIV/AIDS researchers more generally, have evidently learned very well the techniques for using statistics for purposes of misleading and deceiving the polity that they are supposed to serve.