The purpose of this article is to describe the statistics and epidemiological facts about the most virulent epidemic of our age, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The discussion argues for broadened public policy to promote the surveillance of communities in order to enhance the effectiveness of data gathering for epidemiological reasoning, analysis, and control measures. To accomplish these goals, the essential characteristics of epidemiology are defined. The use of deductive and inductive reasoning is applied to describe and analyze known facts concerning the AIDS epidemic. Hypotheses are suggested from current amorphous and continually changing information to assist in further explanations of the epidemic and in the evaluation of methods of prevention and control. Current policies for sexually transmitted diseases are reviewed briefly to identify epidemiological concerns, with the aim of assisting policymakers. Implications for public policy are discussed in the context of seeking epidemiological information for the ultimate protection of the public good.



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