District of Columbia Report Likely Underestimated HIV/AIDS Prevalence, City To Increase Testing
A report finding that about 3% of District of Columbia residents are living with HIV/AIDS likely underestimated the city's actual disease burden, Shannon Hader, director of the district's HIV/AIDS Administration, said Monday at the release of the report, the Washington Post reports. According to Hader, the report provides "a very good snapshot" of HIV/AIDS in the district, but she added that "it's not the whole story." According to Hader, the report "points out that HIV is a common disease here. If you really think that you don't know anyone affected with HIV, maybe it's time to think again." According to Hader, the district plans to scale up HIV testing efforts in order to improve early diagnosis and obtain more accurate data on HIV/AIDS in the city. In addition, she said that the district intends to launch a marketing campaign emphasizing condom use, clean needles and other prevention strategies. Hader said that the district's "goal is to diagnose more people as early as possible." She added, "If you're not getting tested ... we don't have a way of making you part of the response."
According to the Post, District Mayor Adrian Fenty on Monday also released a report by George Washington University's School of Public Health and Health Services, which looked at heterosexual behavior in the district. According to Donald Blanchon, head of the district's Whitman-Walker Clinic, the study found that 70% of those surveyed did not use condoms during a recent sexual encounter. Blanchon called these findings "unbelievable," adding, "This is 2009. We need each district resident to know his and her status and talk about their sexual behaviors and practices with their physicians and their partners." Fenty said, "We know we have a lot of work to do as a government to educate and to get the information out, and as a community to step up and realize how dangerous we are with our sexual behavior." Fenty also joined Pierre Vigilance, director of the district's Department of Health, in calling for residents to exercise personal accountability. David Catania, chair of the D.C. Council's Committee on Health, said "We cannot protect you if you're not willing to protect yourself."
Blanchon said that after the Post on Sunday published information about the district's HIV/AIDS report, Whitman-Walker's two district-based clinics Monday saw a 50% increase in people seeking testing compared with a typical day. According to Fenty, the district's HIV/AIDS report also found some positive trends regarding the disease in the city. He said the city recorded one infant born with HIV in 2007, compared with 10 in 2005. In addition, 70,000 residents received HIV tests in fiscal year 2008, Fenty said (Fears/Vargas, Washington Post, 3/17).
The district's 2008 HIV/AIDS epidemiology report is available online. The George Washington University report on heterosexual relationships also is available online.
Multimedia programs recently reported on the district's HIV/AIDS report. Summaries appear below.
- NBC's "Nightly News with Brian Williams": The segment includes comments from Justin Goforth of the Whitman-Walker Clinic and other district public health workers (Bazell, "Nightly News with Brian Williams," NBC, 3/16).
- NPR's "Morning Edition": NPR's "Morning Edition" on Tuesday reported on the District of Columbia's HIV/AIDS prevalence (Wilson, "Morning Edition," NPR, 3/17).
- Washingtonpost.com's "Live Online": Washingtonpost.com's "Live Online" on Monday featured an online discussion with Hader, who discussed the report and the state of HIV/AIDS in the district (Hader, "Live Online," Washingtonpost.com, 3/16).