AID stats are off (and like the point is?)

Well, one of the big news items these days, is the “re-adjustment” of HIV infection statistics coming out of UNAIDS. Apparently, the numbers that have been used over the last couple of years have been too high and that the new numbers are significantly lower. For example, the worldwide infection numbers dropped from 40 million to 33 million. (news reports nyt, bbc)

In many respects, this begs the question, “So what?” These numbers are still the sort that can merit strong words such as “genocide” and/or “carnage” to attempt to let ordinary individuals like ourselves understand the horror that is on the ground. Does this downgrade really matter, or is it just one of those things that academics can endlessly argue about.

Argue about things like:

Is 33 million really different from 40 million in terms of what this might mean to the graveness of the situation?

Does this number change translate to skepticism as a whole to the AIDS pandemic?

Were the original numbers a reflection of poor stats (kind of what it sounds like, since numbers were obtained primarily from projectiobs from pre-natal centres, which I think common sense would say is a totally biased sample), or a deliberate inflation to vie into fund raising needs?

I heard Stephen Lewis say a few words this morning, and I think he pretty much nailed it by commenting that it would be a shame if all of this talk of statistics took away from the problem at hand. That is, AIDS is a global problem of horrendous nature from a variety of perspectives including those that speak in numbers.

Anyway, don’t forget that this week, there is a whole lot of stuff going on at UBC in lieu of the World AIDS Day coming up in December.

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David (@ng_dave) is Faculty at the Michael Smith Labs. His writing has appeared in places such as McSweeney's, The Walrus, and He plans on using Terry as another place to highlight the mostly science-y links he appreciates. In fact, if you liked this one, you might also like his main site generally - this can be found at