Washington, D.C., Launches HIV Prevention, Education Campaign Aimed at Youth
Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty and city health director Gregg Pane on Wednesday launched a three-year HIV prevention and education campaign aimed at youth in the district, the Washington Post reports. The campaign was launched on National HIV Testing Day and will involve community groups, public schools and strategies geared toward the "video- and cyber-savvy generation," according to the Post. The campaign aims to increase by 25% the number of young people who are aware of their HIV status. It also will be the first of a several new initiatives launched by the district that focus on at-risk populations. The initiatives also could require the district school system to implement a comprehensive and up-to-date HIV curriculum, according to the Post. "We want to push the envelope," Fenty said, adding, "We have to be aggressive." An HIV initiative aimed at youth is important and "overdue," Pane said.
According to data from the district Department of Health, almost 10% of 4,027 HIV cases recorded between 2001 and 2005 occurred among residents ages 13 to 24. Most cases were transmitted through unprotected sex, but an increasing number of cases involved mother-to-child transmission, the Post reports. The health department is encouraging health care providers to screen pregnant women for HIV.
No-cost HIV screenings were offered across the district on Wednesday to mark National HIV Testing Day. In addition, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) met with ministers who took rapid, oral HIV tests. Norton has taken an increasingly larger role in HIV/AIDS programs since last fall and has held town meetings to emphasize various groups' responsibilities in curbing the disease, the Post reports. The health department has not released comprehensive results from last year's HIV testing campaign or responded to a Freedom of Information Act request for statistics filed by the Post last month. Fenty and Pane on Wednesday alluded to data that suggest one-tenth of the district's target population was tested under the campaign, according to the Post. Almost 45,000 people received HIV tests in 2006, a 60% increase over the number of people who were tested in 2005.
Nearly 90% of people found to be HIV-positive were black, according to the Post. Most of the testing occurred in the district jail, in two hospitals that implemented routine testing or through community groups. According to Pane, incomplete planning hindered the impact of the campaign and what the health department was able to learn from it (Levine, Washington Post, 6/28).