D.C. tops HIV-in­fec­tion rates list in U.S., say health of­fi­cials

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY LAURA KELLY

D.C. of­fi­cials are aim­ing to fo­cus pub­lic at­ten­tion on the on­go­ing HIV cri­sis with events around the city on Tues­day, which is Na­tional HIV Test­ing Day.

Ac­cord­ing to the fed­eral Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion, the Dis­trict leads the na­tion in the rate of HIV in­fec­tion, with the chance of a per­son ever be­ing in­fected with HIV in their life­time at 1-in-13 in the Dis­trict, com­pared to Mary­land, where 1-in-49 res­i­dents have a chance of be­ing di­ag­nosed HIV-pos­i­tive.The CDC es­ti­mates that 1-in-7 peo­ple na­tion­wide don’t know they are HIV pos­i­tive.

“It’s im­por­tant to get an HIV test at least once a year and more of­ten than that ev­ery three or six months, depend­ing on your be­hav­ior and how much risk you may be for com­ing in con­tact with HIV or con­tract­ing HIV,” said Josh Ri­ley, di­rec­tor of com­mu­nity com­mit­ment at the Dis­trict’s non­profit com­mu­nity health cen­ter Whit­man-Walker.

Tues­day events in the Dis­trict mark­ing Na­tional HIV Test­ing Day in­clude free screen­ing cen­ters or mo­bile units, and give­aways at the D.C. Health and Well­ness Cen­ter on 77 P St. NE. Tues­day evening, the Brave Soul Col­lec­tive will put on a the­atri­cal per­for­mance at The Fridge venue at 516 ½ Eighth St. SE.

Mayor Muriel Bowser is ex­pected to an­nounce new data from the an­nual re­port on HIV/AIDS, Hep­ati­tis, STD and TB Ad­min­is­tra­tion, and to speak at the Whit­man-Walker Health clinic at 14th Street NW on Tues­day af­ter­noon.

Sim­i­lar events and ini­tia­tives are planned across the coun­try to en­cour­age peo­ple to get tested for HIV. Early in­ter­ven­tion is the best way to con­trol the virus and de­crease the chances of spread­ing it, health ex­perts say.

Cur­rently, 1.1 mil­lion peo­ple in the U.S. have the hu­man im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency virus, which can cause AIDS, de­spite strides in rais­ing awareness, early in­ter­ven­tion and treat­ment. HIV in­fec­tions ex­ploded across the coun­try in the 1980s, dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fect­ing gay men and mi­nor­ity pop­u­la­tions. There is no cure for HIV or AIDS.

Fol­low­ing the Dis­trict and Mary­land, the states with high­est rates of HIV in­fec­tion are Ge­or­gia, Florida, Louisiana, New York, Texas, New Jersey, Mis­sis­sippi, South Carolina, North Carolina, Delaware and Alabama, ac­cord­ing to the CDC.

The rates of new HIV cases fell about 18 per­cent be­tween 2008 and 2014 but are in­creas­ing among young peo­ple, said Pa­trick Sul­li­van, a pro­fes­sor of epi­demi­ol­ogy at the Rollins School for Pub­lic Health at Emory Univer­sity and the lead re­searcher for AIDSVu — an in­ter­ac­tive map based on CDC data on HIV in­fec­tion rates.

The map al­lows users to zoom in on statis­tics in their neigh­bor­hoods, as well as find nearby test­ing and med­i­cal cen­ters.

“We have to re­ally catch youth with the right ed­u­ca­tion and mes­sages and re­sources, whether that be con­dom pro­vi­sion or for those who are 18 and over, can use Pre­ex­po­sure pro­phy­laxis [pre­ven­tive med­i­ca­tion for peo­ple who are HIV neg­a­tive but at a high risk for in­fec­tion],” Mr. Sul­li­van said.

“The idea that HIV test­ing be­come nor­ma­tive, es­pe­cially for young peo­ple who may need test­ing more than just one time, but may need test­ing ev­ery year, it’s im­por­tant for that to be­come a nor­ma­tive be­hav­ior,” he added.

The CDC en­cour­ages ev­ery­one be­tween 13 and 64 years old be tested for HIV at least once.

Ad­vances in an­tiretro­vi­ral therapy since the mid-1990s have al­lowed peo­ple who are HIV-pos­i­tive to live longer, pro­tect against in­fect­ing oth­ers, and pre­vent the virus from de­volv­ing into AIDS, which leaves a per­son with a se­verely sup­pressed im­mune sys­tem and vul­ner­a­ble to in­fec­tion by op­por­tunis­tic dis­eases.

Promis­ing re­search has shown that HIV-pos­i­tive pa­tients on a strict med­i­ca­tion reg­i­men can re­duce the de­tectable amount of the virus in their sys­tems and that re­duces the risk of in­fect­ing some­one else.

WHIT­MAN-WALKER CLINIC

Tues­day is Na­tional HIV Test­ing Day and health of­fi­cials in the Dis­trict are work­ing to help res­i­dents find out their HIV sta­tus.

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