Washington, D.C., Officials Focusing More Attention on HIV/AIDS Epidemic, Progress Uneven, Report Card Says
Washington, D.C., officials have amplified their attention to the district's HIV/AIDS epidemic but progress on promised reforms has been mixed, with poor performances on condom distribution and substance-use treatment, according to a report card released on Thursday by the DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, the Washington Post reports (Levine , Washington Post, 3/23). The center in August 2005 released a report saying that the city's response to the epidemic has been inadequate and poorly coordinated. The report says that city officials were not systematically collecting and analyzing data about the epidemic and were not properly coordinating and supervising organizations that provide services for people living with HIV/AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/5/05). The 2006 report card -- the first in a series -- graded the city on 12 areas the center had recommended for improvement in the August 2005 report. The report says Mayor Anthony Williams has been more outspoken about fighting HIV/AIDS; applauds Council of the District of Columbia member David Catania for calling for expanded HIV testing at city-run clinics and timely payments to not-for-profit groups; and gives credit to district HIV/AIDS Administration Director Marsha Martin, who has advocated for expanded condom distribution and needle-exchange programs, according to the Post. However, the report notes that an executive-level task force on HIV/AIDS reforms recommended in August 2005 has not been developed and District of Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Clifford Janey has not fulfilled the district Board of Education's request to fortify the HIV/AIDS education program. The report also finds a failure to meet the city's goals on condom distribution. The city distributed about 125,000 condoms in 2005 -- compared with 290,000 in 2004 -- about one-quarter of its goal (Washington Post , 3/23). The center also says that funding for the district Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration has "virtually flat-lined" since 1998.
The Appleseed Center gave the district the following grades on progress since the center's 2005 report.
- Leadership: B-
- HIV Data: Incomplete
- Surveillance Staffing: Incomplete
- Grants Management: B
- Rapid Testing: B
- Routine Testing: C
- Condoms: D
- District Public Schools: B-
- Syringe-Exchange Services: B-
- Substance Abuse Treatment: D+ (DC Appleseed Center, "HIV/AIDS in the Nation's Capitol: Report Card", 3/23).
Williams before the report was released said the district's HIV/AIDS-related programs are improving, citing new programs in prison and the pending launch of the task force (Associated Press, 3/23). Appleseed Center Executive Director Walter Smith said the district has seen "forward movement." However, the report says that curbing the epidemic "requires determination and commitment from our public officials" that has not been completely realized. District Health Director Gregg Pane said while he "embrace[s] the report," he believes Appleseed Center "graded low," adding that he thinks the HIV/AIDS administration should receive a "solid A for effort and a solid B for performance." Martin said the city would cooperate with George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services to improve HIV/AIDS surveillance (Washington Post , 2/23).
Whitman-Walker Clinic Names Blanchon New Executive Director
In related news, Whitman-Walker Clinic, the D.C. region's largest provider of HIV/AIDS-related services, on Wednesday announced it has hired Donald Blanchon, a former managed care executive, as its new executive director and CEO, the Post reports. Blanchon most recently was the vice president for Medicare and Medicaid programs at the medical management company Schaller Anderson (Levine , Washington Post, 3/23). "Donald Blanchon comes to us with remarkable health care credentials that will bring new and essential skills to lead the Clinic into the future," Jannette Williams, chair of WWC's board of directors, said, adding, "He is well-prepared to continue implementing Whitman-Walker Clinic's new business model, which is focused on increasing the number of insured clients and expanding into primary care services." Blanchon said, "Whitman-Walker Clinic is a remarkable institution, and I am excited to be given the opportunity to lead it through this critical period and beyond" (WWC release, 3/22). Interim Executive Director Roberta Geidner-Antoniotti will resume her job as the clinic's chief operating officer when Blanchon starts on May 1 (Washington Post , 3/23).