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Using the capture-recapture method to estimate the human immunodeficiency virus-positive population
Jalal Poorolajal, Younes Mohammadi, Farzad Farzinara
Epidemiol Health. 2017;39:e2017042.   Published online October 10, 2017
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AbstractAbstract PDF
The capture-recapture method was applied to estimate the number of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive individuals not registered with any data sources.
This cross-sectional study was conducted in Lorestan Province, in the west of Iran, in 2016. Three incomplete sources of HIV-positive individuals, with partially overlapping data, were used, including: (a) transfusion center, (b) volunteer counseling and testing centers (VCTCs), and (c) prison. The 3-source capture-recapture method, using a log-linear model, was applied for data analysis. The Akaike information criterion and the Bayesian information criterion were used for model selection.
Of the 2,456 HIV-positive patients registered in these 3 data sources, 1,175 (47.8%) were identified in transfusion center, 867 (35.3%) in VCTCs, and 414 (16.8%) in prison. After the exclusion of duplicate entries, 2,281 HIV-positive patients remained. Based on the capture-recapture method, 14,868 (95% confidence interval, 9,923 to 23,427) HIV-positive individuals were not identified in any of the registries. Therefore, the real number of HIV-positive individuals was estimated to be 17,149, and the overall completeness of the 3 registries was estimated to be around 13.3%.
Based on capture-recapture estimates, a huge number of HIV-positive individuals are not registered with any of the provincial data sources. This is an urgent message for policymakers who plan and provide health care services for HIV-positive patients. Although the capture-recapture method is a useful statistical approach for estimating unknown populations, due to the assumptions and limitations of the method, the population size may be overestimated as it seems possible in our results.


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Epidemiol Health : Epidemiology and Health