Take care with data

In Australia, state, territory and national HIV data is published annually, via the Annual Surveillance Report  (produced by the Kirby Institute), and at jurisdictional level by state and territory health departments. HIV social research centres also regularly release data related to sexual and other behaviour that may put people at risk of acquiring HIV.

The release of this data can stimulate media coverage. HIV data is sometimes also included (to provide context) in other HIV-related reporting.

Inaccurate reporting of HIV data can contribute to the stigmatisation of affected communities or trigger unwarranted fears about HIV in the broader community.

It is important to ensure that HIV data is current, correctly interpreted, and that commonly used terms are made clear in media reporting. Three terms which can be confused are ‘incidence’, ‘prevalence’, and ‘newly diagnosed’. They do not have the same meaning and should not be used interchangeably. 

  • HIV incidence refers to the rate of HIV diagnoses identified during a specified time (e.g. a year), usually expressed as a fraction of the population (e.g. x per 100,000). This term is also sometimes used to refer to the rate of newly acquired HIV infections (within the past 12 months)
  • HIV prevalence is the total number of people living with HIV at a particular point in time, regardless of when they acquired the virus. This is usually expressed as a percentage of the population as a whole
  • Newly diagnosed individuals may have been living with the virus for many years before receiving a positive diagnosis.

This Factsheet – published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – is a helpful guide to commonly used terms in HIV surveillance.

In Australia several expert agencies analyse and report on HIV-related data:

Globally, HIV data is analysed by the United Nations Program on AIDS (UNAIDS) and released in the form of regular country, regional and global reports.

See also:

HIV in Australia

Reporting on HIV data