D.C. HIV/AIDS Rate Drops for 6th Straight Year

The fight against the AIDS epidemic in D.C. is working, according to the latest report on HIV/AIDS infections.

The infection rate has dropped for the sixth year in a row, but the city still has a major battle on its hands to get the rate even lower.

Dwayne Lawson-Brown, 31, who has spent 15 years fighting HIV/AIDS in his hometown, said the latest report still shows too many African-American men reluctant to get tested or treated.

“The main thing that we're fighting really is stigma,” said Lawson-Brown, of Whitman-Walker Health. “Stigma is what fuels the spread of the HIV virus.”

Lawson-Brown was on hand Tuesday as Mayor Muriel Bowser and health officials announced HIV rates have decreased 40 percent since 2009. And in 2013, the last year covered by the report, no babies were born with HIV/AIDS.

Despite aggressive treatments, the city's 2.5 percent HIV infection rate remains too high, especially east of the Anacostia.

“As long as we are still above 1 percent, this is still considered an epidemic in our community,” D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt said.

“It is great that we have only 553 new infections,” said Walter Smith, of D.C. Appleseed. “It's terrible that we still have 553 new infections.”

A recent ban by Metro on issue advertising is blocking a new anti-HIV ad campaign, but the city said its aggressive, simple message is working.

“You have to know your status, and if you're positive, you have to stay in care,” said Don Blanchon of Whitman-Walker Health. “It's a simple solution.”

Officials said they're targeting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases for sharp drops by 2020.

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