Report: D.C. showing modest gains in curbing HIV
The District, which leads the nation in the rate of HIV infection, has seen modest gains over the past year in its fight against HIV/AIDS, according to an annual report published Tuesday.
Mayor Muriel Bowser on Tuesday announced data from the 2017 Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration (HAHSTA) report, which tracks the city’s progress in reducing the number of new HIV infections and in increasing testing, awareness and preventive measures.
“For nine consecutive years, the District has been able to work together with the community to decrease the number of new HIV cases. We know we have more work to do, but this data is good news for our city and our residents,” Miss Bowser said at a press event at the Whitman-Walker Health clinic on National HIV Testing Day.
“In just one decade, we have made tremendous progress, and today our residents who are diagnosed with HIV are getting care faster, and they are starting and staying on treatments that we know are effective,” the mayor said.
About 1 in 13 D.C. residents are at risk of being infected with HIV in their lifetime, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The HAHSTA report is a benchmark for Miss Bowser’s 90/90/90/50 by 2020 campaign, which she launched in 2016 to combat the shockingly high numbers of District residents infected with HIV.
Appearing with Miss Bowser, D.C. Health Director LaQuandra S. Nesbitt stressed that eliminating the stigma of HIV is key to getting more people tested and connected with health care providers if they are HIV-positive.
“Spreading the word about the success of HIV treatment is one way to encourage our residents with the virus to stay on their medications,” said Dr. Nesbitt. “Our HIV-positive residents now have the same opportunity as anyone else to live full and healthy lives, and they play a critical role in ending this epidemic once and for all.”
Of the new statistics, the nation’s capital saw a 0.1 percentage point drop in the number of current residents living with HIV, from 13,391 to 12,964 people.
The number of new HIV cases in 2016 was 347, compared to 371 new cases in 2015.
However, 2016 marked the first time a baby was born with HIV since 2012, and cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis — especially among young people — are on the rise.
“The District maintains significant rates of HIV, STDs, hepatitis and TB,” the HAHSTA report says. “Health disparities also remain a significant feature of the epidemics in the District. In particular, blacks are disproportionately impacted by HIV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea; black gay or bisexual men and black women have the highest rates of new HIV diagnoses; Hispanics/Latino have a higher proportion of new HIV diagnoses; and adolescents and young people have higher rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea than adults.”
About 1.1 million people in the U.S. are HIV-positive, but 1 in 7 Americans don’t know they’re infected, according to the CDC.
Advancements in treating the human immunodeficiency virus, which first appeared in the early 1980s, include a cocktail of therapies that suppresses the disease to the point where a person can expect to live a long life and significantly reduce the potential to infect someone else.
Additionally, people who are at high risk for contracting the disease can take “pre-exposure prophylaxis” (PreP) medication to prevent infections.
Dr. LaQuandra S. Nesbitt (left) said while HIV cases are decreasing in the District, eliminating the stigma associated with the disease will push people to get tested.