Washington, D.C., To Launch HIV Testing Campaign for All Residents Ages 14-84
The Washington, D.C., Department of Health on Tuesday will launch a citywide campaign titled "Come Together D.C., Get Screened for HIV," urging residents ages 14 to 84 to get tested for HIV, the Washington Post reports (Levine, Washington Post, 6/24). The campaign follows a report released in August 2005 by the DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, which says 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. Since then officials have amplified their attention to the district's HIV/AIDS epidemic, but progress on promised reforms has been mixed, according to a report card released in March (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/23). The launch of the testing campaign coincides with the 12th annual National HIV Testing Day, the Washington Times reports (Washington Times, 6/25). The campaign also "dovetails" with CDC's proposed HIV testing guidelines, which will recommend that physicians offer voluntary HIV testing to all U.S. residents ages 13 to 64 as part of routine medical exams, according to the Post. Organizers plan to distribute 80,000 rapid HIV tests, which produce results in about 20 minutes, at no cost to hospital emergency departments, private physicians' offices and community health programs as well as to detoxification centers and substance use and sexually transmitted infection treatment clinics. Administration officials have mailed information about the campaign to 45 physician groups in the city and have held discussions with emergency department doctors in the city's larger hospitals, the Post reports.
Program Goals, Reaction
Officials hope to make HIV testing part of routine medical examinations in the city so more people will be aware of their HIV status and seek treatment, the Post reports. "If we are serious about addressing this epidemic in our community, then screening for HIV has to become routine," Marsha Martin, director of the district's HIV/AIDS Administration, said. According to Appleseed Executive Director Walter Smith, "It's crucial that along with testing goes appropriate pre- and post-testing counseling." Patricia Nalls -- executive director of the not-for-profit group Women's Collective in Northwest Washington, which provides care to 350 HIV-positive women and girls and will be distributing tests -- said the influx of clients will require more funding than what the current program provides. HIV/AIDS advocates are concerned about what will happen after the test result is delivered. "[T]here's going to be a group of people who find out they're positive," Nalls said, adding "How are we going to take care of them?" (Washington Post, 6/24). In addition, some HIV/AIDS advocates say that confidentiality breaches could increase stigma and cause people to lose their jobs and housing, the New York Times reports (DeParle, New York Times, 6/25). Officials do not know the HIV prevalence in Washington, D.C., because local data are incomplete, according to the Post (Washington Post, 6/26). About 2% of the district's population, or almost 10,000 people, are living with AIDS, and nearly 180 of every 100,000 residents are diagnosed with AIDS annually, according to government data, the New York Times reports (New York Times, 6/25).