It doesn't mean that infections are on the rise. It does mean that they've been grossly under-reported. this information is coming out at the same time as the International AIDS Conference gets underway in Mexico City and it's creating quite a stir.
"This new report really illustrates that the number is worse than previously thought," said Kevin Fenton of the CDC.
It turns out more than 56,000 people were infected with HIV in 2006, 40 percent more than the CDC had reported. the new numbers come from an improved test that measures new infections.
Susan Scheer of the Department of Public Health stated "The date of diagnosis- this gives us a way of capturing when people are infected with HIV."
The CDC had been reporting 40,000 new cases each year since the late 1990's.
"This undercounting means underprovision of services and our funding not keeping with the pace of new infections," said Jeff Sheehy of the UCSF AIDS Research Institute.
The CDC actually knew about the discrepancy months ago, but didn't immediately report it, a move that is being criticized today.
"I don't this this adminstration wanted to step up to the challenge of having to deal with the domestic HIV epidemic and so by doing it now, they are effectively putting it off to the next adminstration," said Sheehy.But Susan Scheer with the San Francisco Department of Public Health defends the move to wait. "It's new methodology carefully vetted by statisticians across the country," said Scheer.
Some Bay Area AIDS activists are discussing this at the International AIDS Conference today. Mark Cloutier of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation released this statement saying "With this new, alarming estimate of HIV incidence, it would be public health malpractice not to act immediately to drive new infections down."
Jeff Sheehy agrees. "I hope it leads to new funding and some innovation in how we do prevention," said Sheehy.
The funding question remains- will these new numbers give AIDS research and prevention a shot in the arm? Some public health researchers say it may possibly amount to an additional $250 million over the next few years.