How many people in the US are infected with HIV?

A study by McQuillan in 1993 said 547,000. A New York Times headline "U.S. survey finds 550,000 are infected with H.I.V. outside risk groups" lead to considerable confusion about whether the number infected was the "general public", people outside risk groups, or what.

The figure of 547,000 refers to the entire US population living in households, including people in risk groups. The paper points out that this is probably an underestimate for the number of infected people in the US, as it does not include individuals who do not live in households and may be at higher risk of infection such as people in penal institutions, the homeless, and the hospitalized.

I contacted Dr. McQuillan to verify this:

In response to your letter of August 3, 1994. Larry Altman of the N.Y. Times titled his piece on my paper" ...outside risk groups" , because he felt that the "new" aspect of the data from NHANES III was the fact that the study was conducted in a general population study not in a STD clinic or other "high risk" setting. The survey is a probability sample of the U.S. noninstitutionalized population that lives in households. You are right in saying that so-called risk groups would be included in the survey. They were not over sampled, though, so they were selected proportional to their prevalence in the population.

Thanks for the interest in the study. Hopefully this clarifies the conflicting statements. I am surprised that this has been the topic of computer discussion groups.

Gerry McQuillan


L. K. Altman,"U.S. survey finds 550,000 are infected with H.I.V. outside risk groups.", New York Times v143 (Tue, Dec 14, 1993).

G. M. McQuillan, personal communication, Aug 19, 1994

G. M. McQuillan et al, "The seroepidemiology of human immunodeficiency virus in the United States household population: NHANES III, 1988-1991", Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 7:1195-1201, 1994.

Ken Shirriff:
This page: Copyright 2000 Ken Shirriff.