NPR’s ‘All Things Considered’ Examines HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Washington, D.C.NPR's "All Things Considered" on Tuesday examined the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Washington, D.C. According to NPR, the rate of new AIDS cases reported each year in the district is 10 times the national average. Of the district's more than 500,000 residents, an estimated one in 50 is living with AIDS and one in 20 is HIV-positive, NPR reports. Cornelius Baker, former executive director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic in the district, said several factors contribute to the high HIV-prevalence rate in the city. Baker said, "We have a smaller population, but we also have a large gay community. ... We also have a majority black population, and the black community is being ravished by this epidemic." Baker said a poor health care infrastructure, inadequate primary care and high rates of drug addiction also are factors. The city's high rate of incarceration also contributes to the number of HIV/AIDS cases in the city, he said. "When you look at what is the single most common factor that is present when a black woman is infected with HIV by her partner, [it is that] he was incarcerated," Baker said, adding that jails are a "breeding ground" for HIV transmission. According to Baker, black political and religious leaders in the district have been slow to acknowledge the epidemic in the city.
According to NPR, district and federal funding for HIV/AIDS programs has increased over the last five years, "but it has not grown in proportion to the steady rise in AIDS and HIV cases." Marsha Martin, who become senior deputy director of the District's HIV/AIDS Administration in September 2005, said HIV/AIDS has fallen "off the radar screen" in the city. As a result, less public and private funding is being devoted to HIV/AIDS programs, she said. Martin said D.C. currently does not have an HIV/AIDS public awareness campaign but has a "task force that the mayor's office is in the final stages of vetting that will be including some of the significant individuals that can help us with that campaign." Martin has said she would like to make condoms available in all public places that serve alcohol, expand the city's needle-exchange program, target prevention messages at sexually active teenagers and college students, offer HIV testing in more physicians' offices and emergency departments and require mandatory HIV-testing of inmates during the prison intake and discharge process. In addition, Martin said she would like the city to begin a universal testing campaign and "have everybody know their status" within the next five years. The segment also includes comments from a 54-year-old man receiving an HIV test and from two outreach workers with the Women's Collective, a not-for-profit group that supports people with HIV and works to slow the spread of the disease. The segment also examines a free HIV testing program run by the Women's Collective (Norris, "All Things Considered," NPR, 2/7).
The complete segment is available online.