There has been considerable uncertainty in estimates of past and current human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection rates in the United States. Statistical estimates of historical infection rates can be obtained from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) incidence data and the incubation period. However, this approach is subject to a number of sources of uncertainty and two other approaches, epidemic models of HIV transmission and surveys of HIV prevalence, are used to corroborate and refine the statistical estimates. Analyses suggest the HIV infection rate in the United States grew rapidly in the early 1980s, peaked in the mid-1980s, and subsequently declined markedly. Due both to the decline in the underlying infection rate and to the development of effective therapies that may delay AIDS diagnosis, overall AIDS incidence may plateau during the next 5 years. However, the number of individuals with advanced HIV disease without a diagnosis of AIDS who could potentially benefit from therapy is expected to increase 40% by 1995 as infected individuals progress to more advanced stages of HIV disease. Thus, although the overall HIV infection rate has declined, the demands on the U.S. health care system for treatment and care of HIV-infected individuals remain enormous.
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