No-News News from the CDC
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/04/18
A trusty correspondent had alerted me to another “hot off the press” release about HIV/AIDS from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, summarized thus by Reuters (HIV/AIDS news — Feb 23, 2009):
“U.S. AIDS cases cluster in cities, report finds”
Anyone even remotely familiar with the HIV/AIDS story would gasp in astonishment — not at the fact that AIDS cases cluster in cities, of course, but that anyone would bother pointing it out; after all, AIDS was first identified when it appeared in a few large cities. But perhaps this can be made to seem like a new development for those who are perpetually ignorant and for “news” services like Reuters that apparently have no memory or archive files:
“Most Americans infected with the AIDS virus live in cities, with 10 states accounting for 71 percent of cases, according to new [note “new”] data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC breakdown shows that 85 percent of all reported cases of HIV infection were in large U.S. metropolitan areas, up from 82 percent in 2007.
By the end of 2007, a total of 1,051,875 people [note the customary CDC penchant for feigned accuracy, here to 1 in a million, left as such by the statistically ignorant media] were infected with the AIDS virus since it was identified in the early 1980s, the CDC found. That included 37,041 new cases [accuracy only 1 in 37,000 here; but it’s AN ESTIMATE, so it’s doubly ludicrous to write 37,041 rather than 37,000] in 2007.
. . .
Last year the CDC reported on its new way of calculating [an anti-euphemism for “estimating”] HIV infection rates and said that 56,300 people became newly infected in the United States in 2006. . . .”
I have this unfortunate compulsion to track data to their source whenever possible, so I went to the CDC website and looked at the origin of this “new” information. That brought me to the recently published HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, 2007; vol. 19, 2009 . I experienced the customary irritation at the number of Tables that are “estimates”, and shrugged my shoulders at the customary inconsistencies: according to Table 16, reported AIDS cases for 2007 were 37,281 for the 50 States and 38,384 if dependencies were included; on the other hand, according to Table 4, the estimate of new AIDS diagnoses in 2007, including dependencies, is 37,041; a rare (for the CDC) and hard-to-explain situation, one might think, when an estimate is LOWER than the actual report.
From Table 16, here are the 10 top states, with numbers of cases:
CA 4952; NY 4810; FL 396;1 TX 2964; GA 1877; PA 1750; MD 1394; IL 1348; NJ 1164; NC 1024; combined total = 25,244, which represents 68% of the overall total, whether you use 37,041 or 37,281 — not the 71% given in the Reuters report.
Now look at the same States as reported for 1985 by the CDC:
3638 (CA), 5473 (NY), 1078 (FL), 844 (TX), 289 (GA), 344 (PA), 229 (MD), 353 (IL), 960 (NJ), 89 (NC); combined total 13,297, representing 84% of the overall total of 15,905.
For 1990, those same 10 States accounted for 74% of all AIDS cases.
In terms of States, in other words, there is if anything less clustering than there was in the past; it has been decreasing steadily over the years.
When it come to large metropolitan areas, again the CDC’s own numbers don’t bear out what their words say. By 1985, 57% of all AIDS cases had been reported from 5 metropolitan areas (New York, San Francisco, Miami, Newark, Los Angeles). In 1990, those areas represented only 32% of all AIDS cases (13,823 of 43,339); in 2007, those 5 areas accounted for only 26% (9,905 out of 38,128).
Again, the opposite of what’s implied by the CDC press release and the media reports. There is less clustering now than in the past, not more.
(One possible reason for a misleading appearance of increased clustering, if one compares not specific metropolitan areas but the total of all metropolitan regions, is that the number of “large metropolitan areas”, namely >500,000 people, has increased during the last quarter century. The proclaimed change from 82% to 85% in a single year, on the other hand, is more likely to be a stochastic fluctuation than a statistically significant difference.)
For the last decade or so, official statistics have blurred distinctions between “HIV-positive” and “AIDS”. However, given that the criterion for “AIDS” necessarily includes “HIV-positive”, one can compare contemporary data about distributions of “AIDS” or of “HIV/AIDS” with earlier data on “HIV-positive”. Everything that’s now being said in these “No-News News” releases from the CDC shows that there’s been no significant change in the distribution of “HIV” between urban, non-urban, and intermediate regions since the very beginning of the “epidemic”. I showed in my book (p. 66 ff.) that the geographic distribution of “HIV” in the United States could be calculated using only two variables, the composition of each State by race and the degree of urban concentration in each State, with rough estimates that “HIV” is twice as common in urban areas as in semi-urban ones, and twice as common there as in rural areas. In 2006-2007, the relative rates were (Table 17 of CDC report for 2007) 15.7 per 100,000 in metropolitan areas (≥500,000 people) and 7.75/100,000 in smaller population centers (50,000-500,000), a ratio of 2.03, and 5.3/100,000 elsewhere (ratio of semi-urban to elsewhere, 1.46); those ratios of 2.03 and 1.46 compare quite remarkably well with the rough estimates of 2 and 2 that I had used on the basis of data a decade ago. There has been no significant change in the clustering of “HIV-positives” in urban versus semi-urban versus non-urban regions over the whole course of the “epidemic”.
As I’ve repeated ad nauseam, the demographics of “HIV” tests are stable geographically during a period of a quarter of a century: that marks “HIV-positive” as reflecting something that is endemic, not a contagious epidemic.
It’s not only the geographic distribution that has remained constant. It’s also that matter of the age at which people most commonly test positive, 35-45 (Table 1 in the 2007 report).
The median age for NEW infections was 35.1 (Table 3).
The median age of death from AIDS (Table 8, cumulative to 2007) is 40.3. As I’ve emphasized before, the concentration of new infections, most common age of testing positive, median age of AIDS diagnosis, and median age of death from AIDS are all clustered in the 35-45 range of ages (Deaths from “HIV disease”: Why has the median age drifted upwards?, 18 February 2009; Least susceptible = most affected?! More HIV/AIDS nonsense, 22 February 2009). That makes no sense for a disease that’s supposed to be sexually transmitted (greatest risk of infection among adolescents and young adults), with a latent period averaging 10 years before illness sets in, followed since the mid-1990s by treatment with drugs that are so life-saving that HIV/AIDS is supposed to have become a chronic, manageable disease.
Even prominent AIDS activists who toe the official theory-line die prematurely after receiving, one presumes with good reason, the best available treatment. Among the well known AIDS activists who died during the HAART era (see “’AIDS’ deaths: owing to antiretroviral drugs or to lack of antiretroviral treatment?”, 2 October 2008 ), 18 men died at an average age of 45.7 years and 8 women at an average age of 48.5. Of those 26, 8 died of heart failure, 1 of liver failure, another of kidney as well as liver failure, 2 of brain disease, and 1 of pneumonia; for the others, no specific cause of death was given in the media reports. (I excluded from the age calculation two individuals who died at early ages but who had been “diagnosed” as children.) So among those for whom specific information is available, at least 10 of 13 died of drug “side” effects that cause organ failure, and a maximum of 3 died of what might have been “HIV/AIDS”. That’s consistent with what the NIH Treatment Guidelines say: “In the era of combination antiretroviral therapy, . . . the risk of several non-AIDS-defining conditions, including cardiovascular diseases, liver-related events, renal disease, and certain non-AIDS malignancies . . . is greater than the risk for AIDS . . . .” (p. 13, January 2008; p. 21, November 2008).
And the racial disparities, too, are the same as always and everywhere:
And of course the racial disparities in children (<13) are similar to those among adults (Table 5):
The CDC is proud of its newly deployed technique for estimating NEW “infections” by “HIV”. Here are the demographics for that in 2006 (Table 3):
Black rate relative to whites = 7.3 (male 5.9, female 14.7; numbers for other races are too small to allow meaningful comparison).
Once again, within the validity of the numbers, the same as throughout the whole HIV/AIDS era. As documented in my book, data from up to a decade earlier showed very similar ratios, moreover across all observed social sectors. Whether they are soldiers, marines, sailors, members of the Job Corps, new mothers, babies, gay men, drug abusers — in every tested group, blacks test “HIV-positive” at rates of ~7 (males) to ~20 (females) times more than whites; and Asians always test “HIV-positive” less often than whites, on average about 2/3 as often. And Native American do so about 1½ to 2 times more frequently than whites. How can anyone believe that these ESSENTIALLY CONSTANT ratios reflect different habits as to sexual promiscuity and drug abuse?
(Although the CDC always gives data also for Hispanics, this is an ethnic and not a racial [genetic] category. As noted in my book, so far as likelihood of testing “HIV-positive” goes, black Hispanics are like other blacks and non-black Hispanics are similar to Native Americans. It’s a matter of genes, not behavior.)
Obviously, some “experts” in data handling spend time looking at these numbers, presumably with considerable care, if only to do the calculations involved in deriving the “estimates”. Why have they not been stunned, incredulous, at the constancy of the demographic variables?
Chiefly because, I suggest, it’s not their job to think about it. One of the least recognized aspects of “science” is the degree to which it’s done by journeymen, people just doing what they’re told to do; and, particularly in government bureaucracies, raising doubts about what’s being done, and why, is not often welcomed.
This entry was posted on 2009/04/18 at 7:22 pm and is filed under antiretroviral drugs, experts, HIV and race, HIV in children, HIV varies with age, HIV/AIDS numbers, uncritical media. Tagged: “HIV/AIDS” demographic variables are constant, HIV/AIDS and metropolitan regions, iatrogenic deaths of AIDS activists, misleading CDC statistics, no changes in HIV/AIDS over the years. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.