City Desk

D.C. HIV/AIDS Rate Still At Epidemic Levels

A new D.C. Department of Health report out this week found the number of new HIV/AIDS cases reported in the District has fallen by half, the second straight year in which there were fewer new HIV/AIDS diagnoses than the year before. But D.C. still has enough cases of the disease to qualify as an epidemic under the World Health Organization's definition.

The report shows that in 2009, 3.2 percent of Washingtonians over the age of 12 were living with HIV/AIDS, which is an infection rate higher than in many developing nations (the WHO says anything greater than 1 percent is an epidemic). That's about 16,721 people. Of that number:

  • 72.1 percent of patients were male
  • 27.9 percent were female
  • 75.2 percent were African American (accounting for 69.1 percent among males and 99.1 percent among females)
  • Residents between 40 and 49 years old have the highest infection rate among District residents (7,393 per 100,000 residents)

There were some improvements over previous years' bleak statistics. Seventy-five percent of patients sought treatment within three months of being diagnosed. In 2005, barely 58 percent were getting treatment at that point. Also, the number of deaths from HIV and AIDS dropped by over half. In 2005, there were 326 deaths from the disease. In 2009, only 153. Of those diagnosed with HIV, only 24.2 percent have progressed into full-blown AIDS.

"Our newest update on the state of the HIV epidemic gives new inspiration to our efforts as One City – government and community working together – to fight HIV/AIDS in the District of Columbia," says Mayor Vincent Gray. "We are getting people diagnosed earlier and into care and treatment faster for their health, thereby reducing the chances that others will get infected."

Free treatment has doubled since 2007, four million free condoms were distributed last year, and the District's needle-exchange program extracted 320,000 needles from circulation.

D.C. supported 110,000 HIV tests last year, triple the amount from 2006. HIV testing in the Department of Motor Vehicles and income-maintenance centers have started or are being set up now to maintain the pace of 2010's progress.

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