Washington Post gets the HIV prevalence story wrong

Published: September 24, 2010

Darryl Fears of the Washington Post starts off with

Study puts HIV rate among gay men at 1 in 5

One in five gay men in the United States has HIV, and almost half of those who carry the virus are unaware that they are infected, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.

The problem? That’s just flat false.

As we reported, the CDC study was of men in urban settings and not reflective of gay men on the whole. It was not even representative of gay urban men, just those who are living it up at the bars.

And there is a material difference.

As we have stated in the past, only about 12% of gay men are infected with HIV. But Fears doesn’t have to take our word for it, it’s right there in the study which he was reporting. And the CDC made a point of warning against reporting their study in a sensational way:

Finally, these findings are limited to men who frequented MSM-identified venues (most of which were bars [45%] and dance clubs [22%]) during the survey period in 21 [metropolitan statistical areas] with high AIDS prevalence; the results are not representative of all MSM. A lower HIV prevalence (11.8%) has been reported among MSM in the general U.S. population. [emphasis mine]

While it may take an extra few minutes to read the whole report, it can make the difference between providing news and spouting nonsense.

Of course the Post was not alone is their sloppy reporting. The AP was actually worse

One in five sexually active gay and bisexual men has the AIDS virus, and nearly half of those don’t know they are infected, a federal study of 21 U.S. cities shows.

“We don’t have a generalized epidemic in the United States. We have a concentrated epidemic among certain populations.”

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