HIV/AIDS Rate in D.C. “Higher Than West Africa”

Nearly 3,000 out of 100,000 residents have disease or virus

It's a startling figure.

Nearly 3,000 of every 100,000 people living in the nation's capital have HIV or AIDS, according to a report that will be released by D.C. health officials Monday. 

That's a little more than 15,000 people with the disease -- a total that well exceeds the 1 percent threshold for what makes up a "generalized and severe epidemic," according to the 2008 epidemiology report. 

"Our rates are higher than West Africa," Shannon L. Hader, director of the District's HIV/AIDS Administration, told The Washington Post. "They're on par with Uganda and some parts of Kenya."

Hader -- who led the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's work in Zimbabwe -- said every mode of transmission for the virus and the disease is rising, from men having sex with men, and heterosexual and injected drug use -- or, as noted by the study, "the true number of residents currently infected and living with HIV is certainly higher."  

More than 4 percent of blacks in the city are known to have HIV, along with almost 2 percent of Latinos and 1.4 percent of whites, according to the Post. 

More than three-quarters -- 76 percent -- of the HIV infected are black, 70 percent are men and 70 percent are age 40 and older.

Despite the dire statistics, there was some good news in the District's report, the Post said.  More people are getting HIV diagnoses early, while they are still healthy, a result of a policy of routine testing put in place by the city a couple of years ago.  

What To Do?

Plain and simple:  get tested and use condoms.

A starting point should be the Whitman-Walker Clinic, which offers free HIV tests.  If you're scared of needles, there's nothing to worry about.  They can perform the test just by swabbing the inside of your mouth.

Click here for a complete list of times and places where Whitman-Walker offers tests.

The District offers free condoms.  For more information on the distribution program, click here.

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