New government estimates of the number of Americans who become infected with the AIDS virus each year are 50 percent higher than previously believed, sources said Friday.
For more than a decade, epidemiologists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have pegged the number of new HIV infections each year at 40,000. They now believe it is between 55,000 and 60,000.
The higher estimate is the product of a new method of testing blood samples that can identify those who were infected within the previous five months. With a way to distinguish recent infections from long-standing ones, epidemiologists can then estimate how many new infections are appearing nationwide each month or year.
The CDC has not announced the new estimate, but two people in direct contact with the scientists preparing it confirmed it Friday.
What is uncertain is whether the American HIV epidemic is growing or is simply larger than anyone thought. It will take two more years of using the more accurate method of estimation to spot a trend and answer that question.
Santa Ana, Calif.
Rains threaten mudslides, floods
Southern California’s weather turned from dangerously dry to extremely wet Friday as a storms brought the threat of mudslides and flash floods in areas burned by recent wildfires and prompted evacuation orders.
Residents were ordered to leave 200 homes in Orange County’s Modjeska and Williams canyons, while voluntary evacuations were urged in a third canyon and firefighters were keeping an eye on a fourth, county Battalion Chief Kris Concepcion said.
The National Weather Service said some flash flooding and debris flows were reported in the Modjeska Canyon area at midafternoon. Sheriff’s deputies went door-to-door to alert residents to the risk and an emergency shelter was set up at an area high school.
In north-central San Diego County, more than 2 inches of rain fell in the vicinity of vast areas burned by the wildfires of late October, the weather service said. Downtown Los Angeles had a half-inch of rain by evening.
Chavez threatens to cut off oil
President Hugo Chavez urged supporters Friday to approve constitutional changes that he said could keep him in power for life and threatened to cut off oil exports to the United States if it tries to meddle in Sunday’s vote.
Speaking to more than 200,000 supporters, Chavez warned that his opponents at home could try to sabotage the vote with backing from Washington through violent protests on the night of the vote.
“If ‘yes’ wins on Sunday and the Venezuelan oligarchy, the violent Venezuelans – the ones who play the (U.S.) empire’s game – unleash violence with the tale that there was fraud … minister, that very Monday you order a halt to the shipments of oil to the United States,” Chavez said, addressing his oil minister, Rafael Ramirez.
Venezuela was the fourth-largest oil exporter to the United States in 2006.