Washington D.C.’s HIV/AIDS Rate Higher Than West Africa

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For every 100,000 Washington D.C. residents over the age of 12, there are nearly 3,000 people living with HIV or AIDS. Or, put more frankly: A full three percent of Americans calling our nation’s capital home are infected. And that’s just what D.C’s HIV/AIDS Administration can count.

“Our rates are higher than West Africa,” said Shannon L. Hader, director of the District’s HIV/AIDS Administration, who once led the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s work in Zimbabwe. “They’re on par with Uganda and some parts of Kenya.”

“We have every mode of transmission” — men having sex with men, heterosexual and injected drug use — “going up, all on the rise, and we have to deal with them,” Hader said.

In addition to the epidemiology report, the city is also releasing a study on heterosexual behavior tomorrow. That report, funded by the CDC, was conducted by the George Washington University School of Health and Health Services.

Among its findings: Almost half of those who had connections to the parts of the city with the highest AIDS prevalence and poverty rates said they had overlapping sexual partners within the past 12 months, three in five said they were aware of their own HIV status, and three in 10 said they had used a condom the last time they had sex.

And which demographics are most at risk (emphasis ours)?

The District’s report found a 22 percent increase in HIV and AIDS cases from the 12,428 reported at the end of 2006, touching every race and sex across population and neighborhoods, with an epidemic level in all but one of the eight wards. Black men, with an infection rate of nearly 7 percent, carry the weight of the disease, according to the report, which also underscores that the District’s HIV and AIDS population is aging. Almost 1 in 10 residents between the ages of 40 and 49 has the virus.

The report notes that “this growing population will have significant implications on the District’s health care system” as residents face chronic medical problems associated with aging and fighting a disease that compromises the immune system.

Men having sex with men has remained the disease’s leading mode of transmission. Heterosexual transmission and injection drug use closely follow, the report says. Three percent of black women carry the virus, partly a result of the increase in heterosexual transmissions.

[…] More than 4 percent of blacks in the city are known to have HIV, along with almost 2 percent of Latinos and 1.4 percent of whites. More than three-quarters — 76 percent — of the HIV infected are black, 70 percent are men and 70 percent are age 40 and older.

Heterosexual sex was the principal mode of transmission for blacks with the disease, 33 percent. Men having sex with men was the chief mode of transmission for white residents, 78 percent; and Latinos, 49 percent. Black women represent more than a quarter of HIV cases in the District, and most, about 58 percent, were infected through heterosexual sex. About a quarter of black women were infected through drug use.

So, is there any good news?

More people are getting HIV diagnoses early, while they are still healthy, as a result of a policy of routine testing implemented by the city in mid-2006. Publicly supported HIV testing expanded by 70 percent.

[Washington Post]