WASHINGTON — The estimated number of Americans who become infected with the AIDS virus each year is up to 50% higher than previously believed, officials said Friday.
For more than a decade, epidemiologists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have pegged the number of new HIV infections each year at 40,000. They now believe it is between 55,000 and 60,000.
The higher estimate is the product of a new method of testing blood samples that can identify those who were infected within the previous five months. With a way to distinguish recent infections from long-standing ones, epidemiologists can then estimate how many new infections are appearing nationwide each month or year.
The higher estimate is based on data from 19 states and large cities that have been extrapolated to the nation as a whole.
The CDC has not announced the new estimate, but two officials in contact with the scientists preparing it confirmed it.
What is uncertain is whether the American HIV epidemic is growing or is simply larger than anyone thought. It will take two more years of using the more accurate method of estimation to spot a trend and answer that question.