New Tool for Tracking HIV Rates

By Tim Persinko
|  Wednesday, Jun 1, 2011  |  Updated 12:30 PM EDT
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A new online map allows users to track infection rates across a number of different demographics.

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The Centers for Disease Control identified the first cases of AIDS virus in California in June of 1981.

Understanding of the disease has come a long way in the past 30 years, with researchers developing a treatment, but not a cure for the deadly illness.

Despite these advances, AIDS remains an epidemic in many parts of the country - particularly in Washington D.C.  The severity of the problem is highlighted in a new online interactive map project launched by Emory University on Wednesday.

The project, called AIDSVu.org, allows users to take a granular look at HIV/AIDS infection rates across the country, county by county.  In the District, infection rates can be tracked between different zip codes.

"AIDSVu is an important new public health tool," said Dr. James Curran from the Rollins School of Public Health, "that makes data on the geography of HIV in the United States available to anyone with an internet connection."

According to the most recent data, infection rates in the District remain some of the highest in the nation.  The city's infection rate is 3.2 percent, far above the national average.  When broken down by sex and gender, black males are the most affected group in the city, with 7.1 percent diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.

While men having sex with men is the leading mode of transmission for HIV, heterosexual sex is not far behind as the second leading factor.

The interactive map allows users to make nationwide comparisons of infection rates, and at a glance see the most-impacted regions of the country and individual states.  Users can view infection rates by age, sex, gender, or overall rates.  The map also allows user to see where treatment centers are located.

"The high-resolution maps on AIDSVu let us see the parts of the country most impacted by HIV - and the places where we need to focus HIV prevention sources," said Dr. Patrick Sullivan, also from Emory.

Most of the data is drawn from latest available CDC counts.  Data for D.C. and New York City, which is broken down by the zip code, is drawn from the city's themselves. 

A new survey of Washington D.C.'s HIV/AIDS infection rates is due out this month.

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