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Number of HIV/AIDS patients in Riverside County rise due to data revision

The number of HIV/AIDS patients residing in Riverside County last year was 51 percent higher than previously estimated, due to a data revision that more accurately reflects migration of patients from one location to another, county health officials said Tuesday.

According to the Department of Public Health, the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS” countywide in 2016 was 8,404 — rather than the 5,552 first estimated.

The recalculation stemmed from a change in counting methodology called “migration prevalence.”

“We’ve always suspected the number of people living with HIV/AIDS was higher than previously reported,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county’s public health officer. “This data gives us a more accurate picture of what’s happening in Riverside County and the challenges facing patients, medical providers and the systems that serve them.”

According to health officials, prior HIV/AIDS surveillance was based on “standard prevalence,” which associated patients with a specific geographic location based on where they were living at the time of diagnosis.

The new methodology, migration prevalence, counts patients according to where they are currently residing, defined by a specific local health jurisdiction.

The nearly 3,000 additional HIV/AIDS cases in Riverside County were largely concentrated in the eastern county region, DPH officials said.

“The Palm Springs region is known for its welcoming environment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, along with a substantial HIV care and support infrastructure,” according to a health department statement.

The analysis noted the major “in-migration” of LGBT residents was attributed to a surge in arrivals of “white, gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men, 45-64 years old.”

The figures did not account for what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designated as “HIV unaware” residents, who have been infected but don’t know it yet. County health officials estimated there are about 1,260 individuals who fall into this category.

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