News

Washington, D.C. Faces Modern AIDS Epidemic

Just days before the international observance of World AIDS Day December 1, a new report by the government of Washington, D.C., offered some grim statistics. One in 50 people in the nation's capital has AIDS. One in 20 is infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The city has the highest HIV infection rate in the nation. City officials are calling it a "modern epidemic."

When Washington, D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty came into office last January, he made HIV/AIDS his number one public health priority. He reaffirmed that commitment this week with the release of the city's first annual Epidemiology Report. "It's the first time the District of Columbia government has its own statistics on the infection rate and, most importantly, it will allow us to do something about it."

According to the annual report, 12,428 people reported living with HIV and AIDS in Washington, a city of just under 600,000. The rate of new cases is higher than in cities like New York, Chicago and Detroit.

African Americans constitute 57 percent of the population in Washington, yet 80 percent of those infected are black. Among them is Wesley Carpenter, 56, who says he got the AIDS virus from intravenous drug use and promiscuous sex. He was diagnosed 26 years ago, but has led a relatively normal life with the virus thanks to a daily cocktail of three anti-retroviral drugs, regular medical checkups and participation in an HIV/AIDS support group.

But the former drug addict says he is a changed man. "I'm more spiritually grounded now. Also I like to be an advocate and educate people."

When he speaks to groups in the community, Carpenter talks about how important it is to get tested. "Testing cuts down on the spread of it. How can you start treating something that you don't know about?"

The HIV/AIDS report makes the same point. Late testing is a major problem. In Washington, 70 percent of AIDS cases progressed from HIV to AIDS in less than a year, compared with 39 percent nationally.

Shannon Hader heads the District of Columbia HIV/AIDS Administration, the government agency that published the report. She says the data reveals a complex epidemic involving a diverse range of risk groups. "We have about a third of the infections being transmitted heterosexually, a little less than a third being transmitted among men who have sex with men and probably about 20 percent being transmitted through injection drug use."

Among people who have become infected most recently, heterosexual transmission leads all other risk categories. According to the D.C. report, two-thirds of the newly reported HIV/AIDS cases are among people ages 30 to 49.

Hader says the report gives public health officials a road map that can help them focus the city's response to the epidemic. "They really help us prioritize."

Hader says the report also helps public health officials estimate what services they will need in the future, which, he adds, "actually is a higher volume of services than we have now if we really want to cover this epidemic and do it well."

Hader has a $95 million-budget to do the job, which includes stepping up AIDS awareness and quick HIV-testing programs, and distributing millions of free condoms throughout the city. Over the next several years, Hader expects these and other initiatives will reduce dramatically the rate of new HIV infections, and help Washington, D.C. turn the tide of its AIDS epidemic.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs