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UNAIDS estimates: revised, improved, more precise

24 November 2007
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A couple of days ago, UNAIDS released its 2007 AIDS Epidemic Update. There has been much attention paid to the recent release because the estimates of HIV infections have been revised [downward] since the previous report in 2006. What I found interesting was the language UNAIDS used to characterize the revised estimates instead of clearly stating previous figures were inflated/overestimated, UNAIDS says current estimation methodology is better and now estimates are more precise.

For example, when discussing the downward revised estimates in India, UNAIDS said:

As part of its continuous efforts to know its epidemic better, India’s National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), supported by UNAIDS and WHO, have used improved data from more sources and revised the methodology used to analyse this new data to get a better understanding of the AIDS epidemic in India.

Nowhere in the paragraph above does UNAIDS say the improved data and revised methodology led to a reduced estimate of HIV infection in India. In fact, the 2006 estimate of HIV infections in India was 5.7 million people living with HIV whereas the 2007 estimate of HIV infections in India was 2.5 million, less than half the original estimate. Even in a press release from this summer, UNAIDS never discussed the scale of the over-estimation.

Am I asking too much that they more explicitly admit to their over-estimates, or more humbly state the numbers they present now?

Hat tip to Josh Busby at the Politics and Policy of HIV/AIDS blog.

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