Trends in the first ten years of AIDS in New York City

Thomas, Pauline A.; Greenberg, Alan E.; Weisfuse, Isaac B.; Bernard, Godwin A.; Tytun, Alex; Stellman, Steven D.; AIDS Surveillance Team, New York City Department of Health

With over 37,000 cases of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) reported by the end of 1991, New York City had reported nearly 20% of all US cases in the first decade of the AIDS epidemic. This report examines cases diagnosed through 1990 and reported through 1991 to describe rates and trends in the affected subpopulations. Case data were collected by the New York City Department of Health AIDS Surveillance Team, using a format standardized by the federal Centers for Disease Control. Deaths attributable to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection were examined using data provided by the New York City Department of Health Bureau of Vital Statistics. From 1981 through 1990, 37,436 cases of AIDS were diagnosed: 83% in men over the age of 19 years, 15% in women over 19, 2% in children under 13, and less than 1% in teenagers aged 13-19. Cumulative rates in New York City adults were as high as 100 per 10,000 in nine neighborhoods. Predominant trends included a sustained plateau in reported incidence in men who reported having sex with men and a continuing rise in cases in injection drug users and women infected through heterosexual intercourse. HIV-related deaths in men, women, and children were continuing to rise at the end of the decade. During the first decade of the AIDS/HIV epidemic, case surveillance in New York City measured the visible portion of the epidemic and provided important data on subepidemics.

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American Journal of Epidemiology

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August 22, 2014


From Steven Stellman: Dr. Pauline (Polly) Thomas and I first worked together between 1988 and 1991 when she was Director of the AIDS Surveillance Program and I was Assistant Commissioner for Biostatistics and Epidemiologic Research for the New York City Department of Health, during the early, terrifying years of the epidemic when there were no treatments of any kind and a diagnosis of AIDS was literally a death sentence. Using her surveillance data and data from the Bureau of Vital Statistics which I headed at the time we developed a comprehensive epidemiological analysis of the first 37,000 cases in New York City describing critical time trends and geographical patterns, with new insights into risks related to gender, age, injection drug use, and sexual behaviors. The study was published as the lead article in the American Journal of Epidemiology.