Science writer Stephen Strauss gave two excellent examples of how numbers can mislead in the Globe and Mail for November 10.
On October 19, a Toronto AIDS conference was told that women were the fastest-growing AIFDS risk group, and the last to accept that they are at risk. Fifty per cent of the women infected with the virus, it was reported, contracted it through heterosexual intercourse – 127 out of the 227 women with AIDS in Canada.
Conclusion: the expected outbreak of AIDS among women is now taking place. All women are at risk.
But hold on, said Strauss. Nearly two-thirds of the 127 women (83) were Haitians, or the partners of Haitian men.
Since 1981, when the first cases of sexually transmitted AIDS were reported in women, only 44 cases involving Haitians have appeared. Is the rate increasing? In 1987, only 25 women (including Haitians) contracted AIDS through sexual intercourse. There wee 28 in 1988 and 23 in 1989. and of the 254 gender-classified cases reported so far in 1990, none have been in women through sexual intercourse.
Conclusion: AIDS is not spreading like wildfire through the heterosexual population. All women are not at risk.