HIV Drops In San Francisco

Maybe the April 1 date gave them an out, but the Los Angeles Times is actually reporting a decline in HIV rates in San Francisco. The data is hard to refute:

New cases of HIV in San Francisco dipped nearly 10% in the last five years, marking the first drop in infections since the late 1980s, according to preliminary estimates from the city's Department of Public Health.

During that period the gay male population increased 25 percent. And five years ago, San Francisco's health department was predicting a huge increase in HIV infection rates among gay men to "sub-Saharan" rates - predictions given front page billing on the New York Times. The reason for the actual decline? A large amount of it is not "safer sex" but "sero-sorting": only dating and having sex with men who have the same HIV status as you do. You'll also notice two passages in the article that tell you a lot:

"This is great news; we're making progress," said Mark Cloutier, executive director of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. "But I think it is both bad planning and bad public policy to look toward the future based on a [short-term] trend. We don't know how long this will last." ... One possible downside to the apparent drop in HIV cases: If cases dip below certain thresholds, San Francisco could lose federal dollars for prevention and treatment, and city funds could be shifted elsewhere.

Draw your own conclusions about the relationship between city health departments and HIV infection data. Let's just say a healthy dose of skepticism is always in order.