WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 30: In honor of World AIDS Day, a large AIDS ribbon hangs from the North Portico of the White House November 30, 2007 in Washington DC. World AIDS Day is December 1. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Both the number of deaths and the number of reported HIV/AIDS cases in the District have declined in recent years, according to city officials.
Although HIV/AIDS is considered at epidemic levels in the nation's capital, a report released Wednesday showed that reported new cases of HIV/AIDS dropped from 686 in 2004 to 525 in 2008, the most recent period for which numbers are available.
In addition, the report showed that about 16,500 city residents are living with either AIDS or HIV. That's an increase from 15, 000 the previous year -- an increase in part do to better outreach and testing to locate infected persons.
In one key finding on the impact of the disease, the report showed that the number of people who die from HIV/AIDS is decreasing. The report said the number of deaths fell from 786 in 2004 to 525 in 2008. AIDS-related deaths also fell significantly, in part because of aggressive campaigns to find and treat patients, many of whom do not even know they are infected.
Catania said more aggressive testing means higher numbers are being reported in some instances. But he said it's better to have a clear picture of the HIV/AIDS problem. "We choose to no longer live in darkness," Catania said. African Americans, who make up only 52 percent of the population, account for about 75% of the city's HIV/AIDS cases. One in every 66 white residents is infected and one in every 47 hispanics. For African Americans, the report said, it's one in every 21 residents.
A report to be released later this week on gay men in the District is expected to show one disturbing trend. The report indicates that older, highly educated gay and bisexual males are taking fewer precautions against the disease by engaging in sexual relations without condom protections. Officials say that's in part because more people know that there are drugs that treat HIV/AIDS and it's no longer an immediate death sentence. "But that doesn't really explain the recklessness," one doctor told NBCWashington.com.