HIV/AIDS - A Global Perspective

Protecting health and preventing illness in populations and communities

1. In case scenario 3, prevalence and incidence statistics are reported. What do these terms mean? How are these data of use in understanding HIV epidemics?

Prevalence, as in medicine, is a proportion of the population, which or who have had a specific illness, or a condition, in a particular time period. Prevalence is calculated when one has information about a particular group of the population, depending upon samples or surveys. The samples collected through prevalence are taken as a sort of representative for the entire population/study group of interest. Prevalence is expressed in percentage.

Incidence, on the other hand, is defined by the number of ‘new incidences’ or new cases reported for a particular illness, in a given time period. Hence, the major difference between Prevalence and incidence is that while the former gives us an idea about the percentage of the population with the illness, incidence gives an accurate number of individuals affected in a time period.

Here, we are dealing with an epidemic, which has a low or sometimes zero cure rate, and thus, prevention works better than the therapy. Thus, in such cases, knowing the prevalence rate, which is the percentage of the population affected, although helpful, will not be of much significance as the incidence rate. Since with so much prevention plans and campaigns conducted for HIV/AIDS and its awareness, having an effective knowledge about when and how many new cases are reported can be useful.

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Take the case of Kenya, for instance, where effective incidence rates of occurrence of new HIV cases are available. Hence, one can predict or assess if help in the form of spreading awareness or by other means, as conducted by campaigns is really being effective, and reaching the right crowd. Although prevalence is as much important in assessing the standard data, and how much prevalent is the disease in an area (or a particular group of population), it cannot give us credential data about the effectiveness of care and awareness campaign conducted. Also, the incidence data will ensure it gives us up-to date situation related to the HIV / AIDS epidemic.

2. In HIV epidemics, the vulnerabilities of key populations are noted as of particular concern. What are the vulnerabilities for men who have sex with men? How could these factors pose barriers to providing HIV services including preventative services

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