AIDS in New York Less Urgent than Predicted but More Urgent than Widely Believed, Public Health Group Says

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Although AIDS remains a major health problem in New York City (NYC), previous estimates of the number of persons infected with the AIDS virus in NYC were overstated, according to a new report by the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), AIDS in New York City: Update 2001
. In 1990, the NYC Department of Health estimated that there were 200,000 New Yorkers infected with AIDS, suggesting an impending health care crisis. We know now that scarcity of data caused this overestimation. The numbers of new AIDS cases each year have since decreased. The reasons for this propitious outcome are multifactorial and, without a thorough overview, may lead to a misperception that AIDS is no longer a serious problem in NYC. In fact, the number of persons living with AIDS in NYC has increased dramatically and the disease still poses a threat to public health.

The new ACSH report addresses the current status of HIV and AIDS in NYC. It was written by Robert S. Klein, M.D., Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology and Social Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and a researcher in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Montefiore Medical Center, in New York. The special report updates an ACSH report published in 1990.

The new report discusses the epidemiology of HIV and AIDS throughout NYC's boroughs. One surprising finding of this report is that very few reliable statistics exist pertaining to the exact prevalence of HIV infection in NYC, the variation in prevalence by key demographic variables, and the projection of AIDS prevalence for the next decade. AIDS has been a reportable disease for several years, but the reportage does not reflect the total number of individuals infected with the HIV virus, many of whom will eventually develop AIDS. Only recently has HIV reporting become mandatory in NYC, which is likely to increase surveillance efforts.

In addition to focusing on AIDS statistics, the report reviews the pathogenesis, transmission, clinical manifestations, and treatment of HIV infection and AIDS. Advancements in treatment methods have made AIDS more manageable, requiring less hospitalization and making it more difficult to track. Further, effective medications have increased the life span of many AIDS patients. But until there is an absolute cure or effective vaccine, or until behavior modification curtails rates of transmission, AIDS will continue to be a threat.

"Back in l990 ACSH issued a report on AIDS in New York and our predictions for the future were grim. Now in 2001, we realize that the initial estimates on HIV infection were significantly inflated, and we are observing the dramatic effect of antiviral medications," notes Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, ACSH's President. "AIDS is still bad news for New York City, but the news is not as bad as we once predicted."