Washington, D.C., Health Officials, HIV/AIDS Advocates Unite To Launch HIV Testing Campaign
Washington, D.C., health officials, HIV/AIDS advocates and residents on Tuesday rallied at the city's Freedom Plaza to launch the citywide campaign titled "Come Together D.C., Get Screened for HIV," emphasizing the importance of HIV testing, the Washington Post reports (Levine/Edwards, Washington Post, 6/28). The campaign aims to reach 400,000 men and women ages 14 to 84 in the district. According to statistics presented at the Mayor's Task Force on HIV/AIDS, which convened for the first time on Monday, up to 25,000 people, or more than 4% of all residents, in the district might be HIV-positive. Washington, D.C., health officials have ordered 80,000 rapid HIV tests for use in the citywide campaign. Organizers plan to distribute rapid HIV tests at no cost to hospital emergency departments, private physician offices, community health programs, detoxification centers and substance use and sexually transmitted infection treatment clinics (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/27). About 160 people were tested during the rally using OraSure Technologies' OraQuick rapid HIV tests, which can produce results in about 20 minutes, according to a spokesperson for the district's HIV/AIDS Administration. The district over the next six months plans to launch print and radio public service announcements in English and Spanish, including a rap song targeting the district's youth and pregnant women, to encourage people to get tested for HIV. Kevin De Cock, director of the HIV/AIDS Department at the World Health Organization, said the city's HIV testing campaign is "immensely impressive and should be doable." The campaign's success will be measured in part by how many residents are tested, the number of new HIV cases identified and whether people who are newly diagnosed as HIV-positive are able to access medical care, De Cock said (Washington Post, 6/28).
The district's new campaign is "an ambitious plan" and is "long overdue" in a city with a "well-funded but historically dysfunctional HIV/AIDS program," a Washington Post editorial says. The district's HIV testing campaign "won't work ... if district residents don't take the time to get tested," the editorial adds. "In theory, the [D.C. HIV/AIDS Department] will use the [HIV test] data it accumulates to begin gauging the rate of HIV infection in the city," which will allow the city to "start issuing the kinds of reports on the spread of the virus that have long been standard in cities," such as Baltimore and New York City, according to the editorial. The statistics generated in these reports will allow the city to "finally begin targeting its HIV funding effectively," which could deliver an "appropriately bold counterpunch in the city's so-far losing fight with HIV," the editorial says (Washington Post, 6/28).