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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs