From the University of Arizona Arizona Daily Wildcat, Tuesday, March 9, 1993, vol. 86, no. 115, p. 4.

Column on HIV testing omits important facts about AIDS


Jim Calle writes in his column on HIV testing in the March 2 Arizona Daily Wildcat that "this campus likely has up to and perhaps more than 90 people who are infected with HIV." His source was apparently Marian Binder of the Student Health Center, who "suggested that the numbers in the study are conservative considering that the data is five years old."

Why is the Student Health Service using 5-year-old data (3.1 infections per 1,000 students on college campuses) when its representatives were reporting more recent data on the front page of the Wildcat fewer than three years ago (Nov. 19, 1990--one in 500 college students infected)? Is it because the more recent data gives lower, not higher, numbers? Using the more recent data, one would expect to find about 60 HIV-infected students out of a random sample of 30,000, rather than the 93 expected by the 1988 rate.

It is also likely that the infection rate on Arizona college campuses is lower than the national average. An examination of the 1992 AIDS rate shows that Arizona has a rate of 10.2 infections per 100,000 persons (and a total of 386 cases last year) compared to the national rate of 17.8 infections per 100,000 persons (and a total of 45,472 cases last year). (Tucson's rate is 14.4 per 100,000, with 98 cases reported last year.)

Calle's article is somewhat misleading on other points, as well. He states that "a woman's chances (of contracting HIV) are five times higher than that faced by a man" without pointing out that this refers only to heterosexual transmission. There were 1,677 reported cases of heterosexual males developing AIDS in 1992 (667 of whom had partners with no identifiable risk factor such as intravenous drug use or receipt of clotting factor or blood transfusion), compared to 2,437 females (714 of whom had partners with no identifiable risk factor such as bisexuality, injecting drug use, etc.). Among homosexuals, however, there were 23,936 AIDS cases in males reported in 1992, and lesbians are not even listed as a risk group in the CDC's HIV/AIDS Surveillance report.

It would also have been nice to see details on relative risks, like the significant differences between racial groups. (Among heterosexual Asians and Pacific Islanders, for example, there have only been 14 cases of AIDS among males and 54 cases among females reported since the AIDS epidemic began.)

Jim Lippard
Philosophy Graduate Student