At least 3% of Washington, DC residents have HIV or AIDS, according to a CDC-funded report by the George Washington University School of Health and Health Services.
That’s a 22% increase in just 2 years and 3 times the threshold normally reserved for describing a generalized and severe epidemic.
In black men, the infection rate approaches 7%. The rate is 3% in black women.
“Our rates are higher than West Africa,” Shannon Hader told the Washington Post. Currently director of the District’s HIV/AIDS Office, Hader once ran CDC projects in Zimbabwe.
“We have every mode of transmission,” she added. “Men having sex with men, heterosexual and injected drug use (they’re all) going up.”
Hader took over 2 years ago. She is the District’s 12th AIDS Office director in 19 years, and the third in last 5.
Half the DC residents with ties to particularly hard hit neighborhoods reported having overlapping sexual partners in the last year, and only 30% reported using a condom the last time they had sex.
Meanwhile, Congress had until last year, prevented the District’s AIDS office from using tax dollars for a needle exchange program.
And the report cautions that “that the true number of (District) residents currently infected and living with HIV is certainly higher” than 3%, because this number is based only on people who’ve gotten tested.
Mayor Adrian Fenty added that “to solve an issue as complex as HIV/AIDS, you have to step up. It’s the mayor and other elected officials, but it’s also the community. You have this problem affecting us, and you tell people how serious it is and it literally goes in one ear and out the other.”