It has been just 30 years since the first cases of HIV were diagnosed. The disease is no longer a death sentence, but it's probably more prevalent in your neighborhood than you think. Don't believe us? Check out AIDSVu, the most detailed publicly available look at HIV cases throughout the U.S.
Epidemiologist Patrick Sullivan, the principal researcher behind the project, was inspired to create the map by his 14-year tenure at the CDC's National HIV Surveillance Program. "These surveillance data are so valuable and so many people work with great diligence to make sure that they're right," he explains. "At CDC we produced them in tables of data surveillance reports. I felt like, wouldn't it be great if people could see and understand what these data are really about?"
And so AIDSVu was born. Sullivan and his team have been working since January of 2010 on putting together data from the CDC and from some individual cities.
The interactive map provides near-granular data, allowing users to search cases by state, county, and even zip code in New York City and Washington, D.C., two of the more heavily affected cities. The map is also searchable by gender, ethnicity, and age.
AIDSVu is currently working off 2008 data from the CDC, but the information will be updated annually (next year will have 2009 data, and so on). Individual cities may provide zip code data at any point.
"Part of the purpose of this is when policymakers and community planning groups are trying to figure out how best to respond to the HIV epidemic, we want to deploy resources for prevention and treatment in areas that are the most heavily impacted," explains Sullivan. The map could help provide more targeted AIDS resources from activist groups, government officials, and everyone else involved in fighting the epidemic.
In addition to providing a visual layout of the problem for professionals in the field, Sullivan also hopes that AIDSVu will encourage laypeople to get tested and participate in volunteer research.
"What we hope is that people see this big national view and say 'I never saw it this way."