HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

AIDS in Washington DC

The Washington Post reports on the AIDS epidemic in Washington, DC and notes that the spread of AIDS is most likely more widespread than current surveys show.  Darryl Fears and Jose Antonio Vargas write,

A report showing that 3 percent of D.C. residents are infected with HIV or AIDS is probably an undercount, and the prevalence of the disease is probably worse than is known, according to Shannon L. Hader, director of the city's HIV/AIDS Administration.  Hader said the city will work harder to administer testing, which is key to knowing the true number of residents with HIV and to diagnosing the illness before it develops into AIDS.   "These are people who are diagnosed and alive in our city," Hader said. "If you're not getting tested . . . we don't have a way of making you part of the response."

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty officially released the report at a news conference yesterday in Ward 7, one of several wards where the prevalence of HIV and AIDS is high. He called it a wake-up call for the District and one of the "most serious problems" facing the city. The report confirmed for the first time that at least 15,120 residents -- about 3,000 per every 100,000 over the age of 12 -- have HIV or AIDS.  The mayor also released a study on heterosexual behavior by George Washington University's School of Public Health and Health Services saying that residents in parts of the city with the highest AIDS prevalence and poverty rates engaged in sexually risky behavior that fuels the spread of the disease. . . .

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the District is one of the top three jurisdictions in the country in conducting the most HIV tests and identifying the greatest number of HIV-infected residents. . . .   But, Hader said, "it's not the whole story." The report counted residents who were tested and had HIV and AIDS diagnosed, but not residents who had HIV but don't know it. . . .

Donald Blanchon, who runs Whitman-Walker Clinic, one of the largest AIDS care providers in the city, attended yesterday's news conference. Blanchon said he was especially troubled by the heterosexual study, which tracked 750 D.C. residents.  "The fact that 70 percent of them said they did not use condoms -- that's unbelievable. This is 2009," Blanchon said. "We need each District resident to know his and her status and talk about their sexual behaviors and practices with their physicians and their partners. That goes a long way into how we attack this problem."  . . .

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