Tuesday, December 6, 2005

AIDS Statistics

I haven't read the Straits Times in the last month as I neither had the time nor the inclination to do so. I decided to start again this morning, and to my horror, the first thing that greeted me was an article on gays and what Dr. Balaji thought about them. Now, I've written about this issue before, and now, the exact same dodgy thing has happened yet again!
1 in 25 gay men here may have HIV

ABOUT one in 25 gay men in Singapore is HIV-positive, said Dr Balaji Sadasivan yesterday. Researchers came to that conclusion based on the data gleaned from the anonymous human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing clinic at Kelantan Lane. [1]

However, the Senior Minister of State for Health was quick to point out that the data used to come up with the figure is far from perfect. Dr Balaji explained: 'There are many, many questions about this data. 'Is this representative of all gays? Or is it representative of a sample of gays? We can't answer this question unless we do more detailed studies which may invade into people's privacy.'[2]

Action for Aids (AFA), a non-governmental organisation which runs the anonymous testing clinic, also has no idea how accurate the figure cited by Dr Balaji may be. AFA's programme manager Abdul Hamid Hassan said the figure could be an overestimate, or an underestimate. [3]

Assuming that the newspaper hasn't misquoted him, here's the rub. First, at [1], Dr. Balaji states as fact the 1 in 25 statistic based on experts' opinions. Then at [2], he implies that there isn't much basis in the number that's arrived at, and once again, to not believe what he's just said. It's really weird... Now, it's very reasonable to say that any research involves lots of uncertainty and flaws. But was there any need at all to state something one knows is not accurate in the first place? There's absolutely no value-add in that, with the possible exception that it allows the excuse to conduct more studies which 'might invade people's privacy'. I think AFA's Hassan was probably shaking his head when asked to comment on this [3]. He probably got the whole thing right, the actual figure is either lower, or higher. I'm more interested in this: does Dr. Balaji know what on earth he's talking about?! Then again, he might just have been misquoted by the newspapers... or not.

2 comments:

Jul JUl said...

My oh my!!!
you're still here,.. where r u right now anyway?? always flying here and there can't keep up with u man!

and AIDS huh? its shocking, I dont think anywhere can bit africa tho~ actually i dunno, its pretty bad in America too apparently.

well hope to see u sometime, if u're coming back to perth that is!
merry christmas n happy new year!

jeffyen said...

Hey Amy, I've just come back to Singapore. Yeah, I'll be going back to Perth maybe in January, because I still have stuff in the self-lock storage! Maybe I can give some of the stuff to you hahaa