Last week the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention announced their long-overdue statistics on new HIV cases in America, for 2006. Due out in December of last year, and held up for a peer review that never took place, the CDC numbers will certainly provide fodder for the right wing talibangelicals to declaim that America is a cesspool of sin, immorality, and sexual irresponsibility.

The number of people in the United States reported to have HIV increased by about 50 percent from 2005 to 2006, according to data released this week by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

In 2006, at least 52,878 Americans were reported having HIV, compared to 35,537 in 2005, according to the CDC’s annual HIV/AIDS surveillance report.

Wow!

A fifty percent jump in new HIV cases in just one year! Is this a stunning failure of prevention efforts, a catastrophic indictment of Bush-era abstinence education, or a perfect example of the immorality and promiscuity that American ayatollahs warn against?

Let’s review the bidding, shall we? [my bold]

In its Surveillance Report the CDC this week said there were 52,878 new HIV infections in 45 states and the District of Columbia for 2006. In 2005, CDC reported only 35,537 new infections in 38 states and the District of Columbia.

The CDC in a statement said that the difference in statistics is the result of additional states being counted and not an increase in actual new diagnoses.

The CDC now requires states to report HIV cases via a names-based reporting system in order to receive federal funding, and only states that use a names-based system are counted in the CDC reports. Because federal money is now linked to names-based reporting, seven hold-out states converted to names-based reporting in order not to lose funding. These seven states had their HIV cases counted in 2006 for the first time.

The CDC derives its estimates from states that used a names-based HIV reporting system. In 2005 there were 38 such states, plus five dependent territories like Puerto Rico and Guam. In 2006, this increased to 45 states plus the dependent territories. This means that 6,581 HIV cases from California, 6,241 from Illinois, and 4,048 from Washington, DC, included in the 2006 estimates were counted as zero in the 2005 estimate.

[snip]

If you remove the states not included in the 2005 estimates from the 2006 estimates, the number of HIV cases drops to 34,878, a 2 percent decrease between 2005 and 2006.

In case this comes up at your office water-cooler this week, or in the carpool tomorrow, or while you’re waiting with the other parents for day-care pickup — I wanted you to be prepared with the real scoop: counting more states means counting more new cases of HIV. This isn’t more prevention failure, although we could always do better.  Nor is it a sign of the coming moral apocalypse. It’s a matter of expanding the universe of who is counted, resulting in a higher total.  Be prepared for the moral turpitude dead-enders who blame promiscuity for everything. It’s not more people who are getting HIV, it’s that we know about more people who are getting HIV.  We’ve been undercounting for years.  

Of course, knowing about more people getting HIV every year means we need leaders who understand this issue, right?

Now that the issue has come up at the water-cooler, please take a chance to remind folks of this 2007 Straight Talk Express gem from St John McCain, who the New York Times‘ Adam Nagourney reported gets his HIV-prevention information from Senator Tom Coburn:

Q: “What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush’s policy, which is just abstinence?”

Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “Ahhh. I think I support the president’s policy.”

Q: “So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?”

Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “You’ve stumped me.”

Q: “I mean, I think you’d probably agree it probably does help stop it?”

Mr. McCain: (Laughs) “Are we on the Straight Talk express? I’m not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception – I’m sure I’m opposed to government spending on it, I’m sure I support the president’s policies on it.”

Q: “But you would agree that condoms do stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Would you say: ‘No, we’re not going to distribute them,’ knowing that?”

Mr. McCain: (Twelve-second pause) “Get me Coburn’s thing, ask Weaver to get me Coburn’s paper that he just gave me in the last couple of days. I’ve never gotten into these issues before.”

Don’t you love the coaching from the reporter? "I mean, I think you’d probably agree…." And don’t you love the supposed candor that slips through? "I’ve never gotten into these issues before."

Despite McCain’s stunning level of ignorance, even of his own position on the issue, the most remarkable thing about this exchange, as far as Politico‘s Ben Smith was concerned, was the risk Nagourney took with this line of questioning:

Ben Smith linked to Nagourney’s Caucus entry in a March 16 entry to his own blog on Politico.com, writing: "And Nagourney’s going to get himself tossed off the Straight Talk Express if he keeps, like, demanding answers to stuff."

Yup, even while you fed him the right responses, demanding answers from St John McCain is one surefire way to get other reporters to predict you’ll be excluded from the Straight Talk Express.

UPDATE: Tomorrow ends the first quarter of 2008 fundraising, and our Blue America candidates will close their books for the reporting period. If you plan to give to one or several exceptional Blue America candidates, now would be an excellent time. Big funders, the DeeCee leadership, and local press look to first quarter results to see who’s viable.  Broad-based support from lots of small donors is a great indicator of any candidate’s appeal, so $5.00 and $10.00 donations really mean a lot.  If you plan to donate soon, please donate now!

UPDATE TWO: Look who’s been nominated as one of the Top Ten Female Bloggers Evah!  Vote here

And how was your weekend? 

{youtube Targeting HIV Replication courtesy of drrufusrajadurai}