San Francisco Health Officials Seek Explanation for Decline in HIV Incidence
San Francisco health officials are working to determine what factors contributed to an apparent decline in annual HIV incidence among the city's men who have sex with men, the New York Times reports (Murphy, New York Times, 8/18).
A CDC study released in June found that new infections in San Francisco were occurring at about half the rate recorded in 2001. Based on a sample of 365 MSM tested in the city, researchers found that men were becoming infected at a rate of 1.2% annually, a decrease from San Francisco epidemiologists' previous estimates of 2.2% (California Healthline, 7/20).
Some health officials attribute the decline in incidence to HIV treatment programs, more frequent HIV testing, educational meetings and workshops and harm reduction strategies that work to reduce crystal methamphetamine usage, which some people say helps spread HIV by lowering people's inhibitions. However, some experts attribute the decrease in incidence to an increase in the number of MSM who know their HIV-positive status and who search for HIV-positive sexual partners on matchmaking Web sites.
Willi McFarland, director of the HIV seroepidemiology unit at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said, "We interpret this CDC report as good news, and there are some other encouraging trends and results of other studies." He added, "But we definitely do need to corroborate and independently confirm any decrease in HIV incidence by carefully examining other data."
Patrick Sullivan, chief of CDC's behavioral and clinical surveillance branch, said the CDC report provided a "snapshot in time," and he noted that directly comparable data will not be available until another survey is conducted in 2007 (Murphy, New York Times, 8/18).