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AFA’s Misquoting of the CDC

Timothy Kincaid

August 1st, 2008

We commented earlier on an article in AFA’s OneNewsNow in which Regina Griggs displayed astonishing ignorance about the HIV infection rates of gay youth. Now the editors at AFA have amended the article

Over 70 percent of young kids 13- to 24-years-old, men having sex with men, are now HIV-positive,” Griggs notes. (see editor’s note)

and the editor’s note reads

In June of 2007 the Centers for Disease Control stated that homosexual sex accounted for 71 percent of all HIV infections.

Well now that’s an interesting statistic (though entirely irrelevant to Grigg’s claim). But what do they mean?

Is AFA saying that homosexual sex accounted for 71 percent of recent infections? The CDC Report (pdf) states:

MSM (49%) and persons exposed through high-risk heterosexual contact (32%) accounted for 81% of all HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed in 2005. [the most recent year reported ; emphasis added]

Is AFA saying that homosexual sex accounted for 71 percent of total persons living with HIV/AIDS?

By sex, 73% of adults and adolescents living with HIV/AIDS were male.

Of the estimated 341,524 male adults and adolescents living with HIV/AIDS, 61% had been exposed through male-to-male sexual contact, 18% had been exposed through injection drug use, 13% had been exposed through high risk heterosexual contact, and 7% had been exposed through both male-to-male sexual contact and injection drug use. [In other words, half: (61% + 7%) * 73% = 50% ; emphasis added]

Although the report provides information by ethnicity, location, age at transmission, cumulative deaths, and much more, I was unable to find any statistic that could be interpreted to state that “homosexual sex accounted for 71 percent of all HIV infections”.

(hat tip to reader Neil H)



August 1st, 2008 | LINK

Let’s also remember that the CDC tracks only US infections, and HIV rates in the developed world do not follow the same pattern as infections in the third world, which has been hit far worse by HIV. In Africa, for instance, most HIV is transmitted through male-female sexual activity and maternal-child during pregnancy or breastfeeding. In China and other poorer countries, unsafe use of needles, even for legitimate medical purposes, is a major reason for the disease transmission. So, using any US figures distort the true nature of HIV around the world (where, IIRC, less than 5% of infections can be traced to male-male sexual contact).

Sportin' Life
August 1st, 2008 | LINK

When does it actually become libel? Publishing an unrelated bald-faced lie as a footnote in support of an absurd bald-faced lie certainly shows a reckless disregard for truth.

a. mcewen
August 1st, 2008 | LINK

Remember, One News Now (i.e. Agape Press) was calling Paul Cameron a “pro-family advocate” a few short years ago.

That it would fudge numbers doesn’t surprise me. But the fact that the phony news site actually amended an article is a surprise.

Neil H
August 1st, 2008 | LINK

Found it. It’s not in an official CDC report, it’s in one of their factsheets. And OneNewsNow is still getting it wrong.

The factsheet is called HIV/AIDS among Men Who Have Sex with Men, which was not published in June 2007, but revised at that time. In the first paragraph it says “MSM accounted for 71% of all HIV infections among male adults and adolescents in 2005 (based on data from 33 states with long-term, confidential name-based HIV reporting)”

So it’s not “all HIV infections” at all, but “all HIV infections among males that occurred in 2005”. If you actually read the report rather than cherry-pick inflammatory-sounding statistics, it becomes quite clear that the 71% figure only refers to the proportion of new HIV/AIDS cases that were diagnosed in that year.

And of course, women apparently don’t exist in OneNewsNow’s world – unsurprising since the incredibly low risk of HIV infection among women who have sex with women directly contradicts the Religious Right’s gay=AIDS propaganda. Per the factsheet, the actual percentage of ALL HIV/AIDS diagnoses (not just those that occurred in men) in 2005 that might be attributed to MSM was 53%.

That’s pretty impressive: OneNewsNow managed to get it wrong even though the correct information was in the very same document they pulled the fake statistic from.

Still no idea where Griggs’ “13-24 year olds” bit came from either, if this is really the “statistic” that Griggs originally misquoted. I doubt that it was.

Mike Airhart
August 2nd, 2008 | LINK

Great catch, Neil.

Also, the PDF that BTB cites in the main article is not a report for June 2007, it is from 2005. As with the factsheet, it was revised in 2007.

Mike Airhart
August 2nd, 2008 | LINK

So, both the factsheet and the report cite data from the same year, 2005.

How, then, does one explain the discrepancy between MSM accounting for 49 percent of all new HIV diagnoses, and MSM being attributable to 53 percent of diagnoses?

Neil h
August 2nd, 2008 | LINK

How, then, does one explain the discrepancy between MSM accounting for 49 percent of all new HIV diagnoses, and MSM being attributable to 53 percent of diagnoses?

There’s a category in the factsheet called “MSM and injecting drug users”, presumably where it’s not clear which of the two methods was the cause of the infection. I think the discrepancy would come from whether you include that category in the total number of cases of “MSM diagnosed with HIV” or not.

August 5th, 2008 | LINK

What galls me most is that after looking into it, AFA still doesn’t correct the article.

August 10th, 2008 | LINK

The false witness displayed by Regina Griggs and Tony Perkins (AFA) is staggering. You’d think if they took the ten commandments seriously they’d do their homework.

I think quite a few of these folks sincerely hate us, and aren’t quite the sincere believers they pretend to be.

August 10th, 2008 | LINK

I meant Regina Griggs, Tony Perkins (FRC), and the AFA (oh, and let’s throw Dobson in there as well – the king of misusing research to demonize gays).

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