LOS ANGELES, November 20 /PRNewswire/ --

As the World Health Organization (WHO) prepares to announce a dramatic decrease in global AIDS cases from an estimated high of 39 million people worldwide down to 33 million in a report to be released Wednesday, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) questioned whether this newly revised number of people thought to be living with HIV/AIDS worldwide-now six million fewer-is any more reliable or accurate than the previous number, and called for greater transparency among the global bodies such as the World Health Organization that monitor and track the disease, noting that all these numbers, be they higher or lower, are guesswork at best.

"Because the vast majority of people who are infected with HIV don't know it, there is actually no way to know if this new WHO figure of 33.2 million is any more reliable than the previous estimation of 39 million. There is certainly no basis for believing that half as many people were infected this year than last, as is also being reported - especially not when you can consider that most of the millions of people infected with the virus are unaware of their positive status and are unknowingly transmitting the virus to others. These figures are rough numbers based upon extrapolations gleaned from unreliable data since so few people are being tested. Let's stop guessing and make routing testing worldwide a priority," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "There is certainly reason for skepticism when the numbers shift around so wildly. Add to that the fact that this latest drop is in part being attributed to a recent slashing of infection rates in India from nearly 6 million to 3 million-almost too severe a drop to be believed-and it is clear that greater transparency is needed. Such radical drops in the WHO's numbers unfortunately discredits not only the old numbers but the new."

According to today's Associated Press, "AIDS Cases Drop, But Mostly Due to Revised Data," (Maria Cheng, 11/20/07): "Much of the drop is due to revised numbers from India - which earlier this year slashed its numbers in half, from about 6 million cases to about 3 million - and to new data from several countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Previous AIDS numbers were largely based on the numbers of infected pregnant women at clinics, as well as projecting the AIDS rates of certain high-risk groups like drug users to the entire population at risk. Officials said those numbers were flawed, and are now incorporating more data like national household surveys. U.N. officials could not rule out future downward corrections. WHO and UNAIDS experts reported 2.5 million newly infected people in 2007. Just a few years ago, that figure was about 5 million.

"There has also been no overnight success or significant increase in safer-sex practices or stepped up availability of condoms around the globe, further eroding our belief in these newly revised WHO statistics," added Weinstein.

About AHF

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the US' largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare, research, prevention and education provider. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to more than 61,000 individuals in 18 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia.