D.C. Health Department report released Monday says Washington, D.C. is experiencing an HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The Washington, D.C. Health Department released the study that finds that three percent of all residents of the nation's capital are living with HIV or AIDS. The United Nations classifies an HIV infection rate that exceeds one percent as an epidemic.
Earl Fowlkes, Jr. is Executive Director of the District of Columbia Comprehensive AIDS Resource and Education Consortium - a non-profit organization that provides assistance to people with the disease.
"Those of us who do the work in the district know that the rates of infection are very high," said Earl Fowlkes. "We see these cases all the time."
This year's report shows a 22 percent increase in HIV/AIDS cases since 2006. It says that among reported cases, nearly 70 percent are men and 76 percent are African American.
Fowlkes says the high rate of infection in the African American population is more a matter of economics than race.
"Poorer people are more likely to become HIV positive than other kinds of people," he said. "And there is a reason for this, [it's] not just information. It's just access to health care and access to lifestyles that promote healthy living and holistic living. If you have a class of people who don't believe they have anything vested in society, they are going to be more vulnerable and take more risk."
But the report also says that Washington is making progress in treating, testing and educating people about the disease. The city has also been very active in distributing free condoms and conducting needle exchange programs for drug abusers.
Dr. Joseph Baker cares for AIDS patients at the Whitman Walker Clinic in Washington. He says the next step is to focus on programs to reduce the possibility of infection.
"The goal of a situation like this would be to diagnose as many people as possible and get them on treatment to prevent the spread of the disease," said Baker.
Dr. Baker says that knowing the extent of the HIV/AIDS problem can help focus public resources and the political will to fight the disease.