Health officials in the District of Columbia estimate there are at least 10,000 city residents who have HIV but don’t know it. They’re beginning a new initiative to change that.
The DC Department of Health is working with the National Association of People With AIDS to run the new program. The groups say they’ll target those who already know they have HIV though social media, and urge them to get their friends tested.
“There are pockets of people in the District who are not coming in for testing,” said Dr. Gregory Pappas, director of HIV/AIDS at the DC Department of Health. “There are people who have perhaps taken risks in the past and are afraid."
Pappas said that fear is helping the disease spread. He said the program, already under way in New York and San Francisco, could help change that.
“We have networks of positive people,” said Pappas. “We are working with those groups to go out and bring their friends in, bring their contacts in, to testing.”
Pappas said about 25 percent of the people tested in New York have learned they were HIV positive. Health officials hope awareness of HIV status will encourage people to get into a treatment program that will both save their lives and stop the spread of the disease.