February 3, 2016 at 2:42 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
New HIV cases continue to decline in D.C.
HIV cases, District of Columbia HIV, STD Hepatitis and TB report, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the city is taking approaches ‘that will enable us to ultimately end the epidemic in our city.’ (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A preliminary version of the city’s annual HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report shows that newly reported HIV cases in D.C. during 2014 declined for the seventh consecutive year.

The report, which the D.C. Department of Health released on Tuesday, shows there were 396 new HIV cases in 2014, a 29 percent decrease from the 553 new cases reported in 2013.

According to the report, the 2014 figures represent a 70 percent decrease from the 1,333 cases reported in 2007, which marked the highest number of HIV cases reported in the city.

“Last year, I announced the bold goal to cut in half new HIV cases in the District by the year 2020,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement. “Today, we continue to make progress toward that goal and take new approaches that will enable us to ultimately end the epidemic in our city.”

As has been the case since the start of HIV reporting, the category of men who have sex with men (MSM) continues as the highest mode of HIV transmission in the District. The report shows that in 2014 – the latest year in which data are available – 155 or 49.4 percent of the new HIV cases were from MSM.

The report shows that 41 new cases, or 13.1 percent, were attributed to heterosexual contact; six cases, or 1.9 percent were attributed to MSM who were also intravenous drug users; and three cases, or 1.0 percent was intravenous drug users.

The second largest category for mode of transmission, the report shows, is 109 cases or 34.7 percent representing people whose risk factor could not be identified. Department of Health officials have said this figure usually goes down at the time the final version of the report is released in the summer when DOH staffers identify the mode of transmission for more of the people in the “risk unknown” category.

DOH officials noted that the report released on Tuesday for the first time lists transgender people separately from the “male” and “female” categories in which they had been lumped together in past years. The current report shows a total of 14 HIV cases among transgender residents in 2014 – 10 transgender women and four transgender men.

Also for the first time the report released this week breaks down the number of new cases by transmission linked to “sexual contact” and non-sexual contact. Fifty-nine percent of the 2014 cases are attributed to sexual contact; 36 percent to “risk not identified”; 3 percent to intravenous drug use; and 2 percent to sexual contact and intravenous drug use.

Among the total of 232 new HIV cases in 2014 attributed to sexual contact, 66 percent were MSM, 17 percent were “male-heterosexual contact;” and 14 percent were “female-heterosexual contact.” Three percent were listed as “transgender sexual contact.”

A Department of Health statement says the report was prepared by the department’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Disease and Tuberculosis Administration, known as HAHSTA. It says DOH will release its “comprehensive and complete” surveillance report for 2014 in the summer of 2016.

Whitman-Walker Executive Director Don Blanchon said the declining number of new HIV infections in D.C. reflects the value of community wide testing, treatment on demand and prevention efforts that include pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, which involves providing a daily “prevention pill” to people who are HIV negative.

“Simply put, it is saving peoples’ lives and reducing new infections,” he said. “Today’s update reaffirms that we are on the right path to getting to zero new infections in a given year.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • Ryan Danny Felber

    There is a mistake above in the percent of which new cases in 2014 are MSM. According to this article, out of 396 new cases of HIV, 155 were described as MSM. That’s 39.14%, not the above listed 49.4%.

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