Let’s talk stats: a drug to reduce the risk of HIV transmission?

I was linked to an article by the lovely androgenius a few moments ago, and I think it’s important we take some time to talk about bad reporting (and potentially bad science).

You absolutely should not glance at an article like this and take it at face value. I honestly believe that all people ought to take a statistics course at some point in life, if only to be able to spot stuff like this. Especially like this. When it involves your health? Yeah.

Before we dive into my two main points of contention, let me make a disclaimer: Since the article doesn’t link to the actual published report, I can’t really say if this is good science or not. However, if the research is as vague as the article, then I feel like we’ve got a real problem. If not, then this is just shitty reporting.

A three-year study found that daily doses cut the risk of infection in healthy gay and bisexual men by 42 percent, when accompanied by condoms and counseling.

Great. Reducing infection is a good thing, but since there isn’t any mention of transmission rates without condoms and counseling (or what counseling even entails). I just tried to find statistics on transmission rates in gay couples with condoms being used, but Google is failing me. Regardless, it’s well-established that condom use already significantly cuts HIV transmission rates, so color me skeptical that this drug actually has a significant effect.

Last year, another study found that Truvada reduced infection by 75 percent in heterosexual couples in which one partner was infected with HIV and the other was not.

And this bit is even worse than the last one. It is not specified whether or not condoms or counseling were involved, and furthermore, it’s worth making the distinction that women catch HIV from men more easily than men catch HIV from women. So the infected partner makes a difference, too. And none of that is specified. A prior study from the late ’90s indicated that condoms had a 100% effectiveness rate at preventing the spread of HIV in this same interest group, so again, this drug isn’t looking all that great.

The best part? The fuckers making this drug (Gilead Sciences) are pricing this pill at around $14,000/year.

Lovely world we’ve got, here…

  1. happiestaccident said: omfg I know. Slate is notorious for vague, shitty reporting.
  2. thisisarecountry posted this
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