March 17, 2010 at 3:07 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
D.C. sees decline in AIDS cases, deaths: report

The number of diagnoses of full-blown AIDS cases in the District of Columbia declined by 33 percent from 2004 to 2008, and the number of city residents dying from AIDS dropped by 30 percent during the same period, according to the city’s 2009 report on HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

But the report also says that the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the city increased by 9.2 percent between December 2007 and December 2008, the most recent period for which data is available.

And similar to past findings, the report shows that men who have sex with men, referred to as MSM, account for the leading mode of transmission of HIV, accounting for 37.3 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS. People who contracted the disease through heterosexual contact comprise 27 percent of “living” cases, and people who contracted HIV/AIDS through injection drug use make up 17.4 percent of the cases, says the report.

During a news conference Wednesday where Mayor Adrian Fenty and city health officials released the report, the new data was framed as encouraging and an indication that the city’s aggressive HIV testing and treatment policies are paying off.

Dr. Shannon Hader, director of the D.C. HIV/AIDS Administration, said the increase in newly diagnosed HIV infections, by just over 9 percent, was expected due to the city’s expanded and highly publicized effort to encourage people to get tested.

“This shows work over the past couple of years is paying off,” Fenty said. “Lots of indicators are headed in the right direction.”

D.C. City Council member David Catania, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Health, echoed Fenty’s assessment of the report.

“There is a lot of good news in this report,” he said. “But we continue to labor under the highest rates of HIV in the country.”

Catania and Fenty noted that the good news, among other things, is the city doubled the number of people enrolled in its free HIV/AIDS anti-retroviral drug program, leading to a significant drop in the number of AIDS deaths.

The report’s findings on the breakdown of HIV diagnoses by race and gender show trends similar to those found in the reports for the previous two years:

• among the city’s overall population, 4.6 percent of blacks, 2.1 percent of Latinos, and 1.5 percent of whites are living with HIV/AIDS;

• among the city’s black males, 7.1 percent have HIV/AIDS;

• among people living with HIV/AIDS, 72 percent are men, 75.6 percent are black men, and 71.3 percent are currently over the age of 40;

• men who have sex with men account for 37.3 percent of all living HIV/AIDS cases;

• heterosexual transmission makes up 27 percent of the living cases;

• injection drug use accounts for the mode of transmission in 17.4 percent of the living cases;

• the leading mode of transmission for new HIV/AIDS cases in D.C. is heterosexual contact (30.6 percent), men who have sex with men (29.1 percent), and injection drug users (21.4 percent).

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

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