The Changing Science of HIV Epidemiology in the United States

Am J Epidemiol. 2019 Dec 31;188(12):2061-2068. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwz211.


In 1984, a large prospective study of the natural history of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS), was established; 10 years later, the Women's Interagency HIV Study (WIHS) was launched. Motivated by the merger and redesign of these long-standing HIV cohort studies in 2019, we review ways in which HIV epidemiology in the United States has transformed over the lives of these studies and how this evolution has influenced planning for enrollment and follow-up. We highlight changes that have occurred in the 3 major domains that are central to epidemiologic science: changes to key populations at highest risk for HIV, refinements in measurement and shifts in the outcomes of interest, and a new era in the tools and approaches that epidemiologists use to synthesize evidence from measurements made on populations. By embracing foundational principles with modern methods, the epidemiologic approach of analyzing the causes and distributions of diseases in contemporaneous populations will continue to advance HIV science over the next decade.

Keywords: HIV epidemiology; inference; measurement; population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Epidemiology / trends*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • United States / epidemiology