July 26, 2018 at 8:48 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Trend in declining HIV cases in D.C. stalled in 2017
annual AIDS report, gay news, Washington Blade

Michael Kharfen, senior deputy director of HAHSTA, said city health officials view the 2017 data for new HIV cases as a temporary ‘pause’ in a multi-year trend. (Photo via Linkedin)

A trend in declining numbers of newly diagnosed HIV cases in the District of Columbia each year since 2013 came to a near halt in 2017 when 368 new cases were reported, just one less than the 369 new cases reported in 2016, according to the city’s newly released annual AIDS report.

The report shows that while the total number newly reported HIV cases remained statistically the same between 2016 and 2017, the number of new cases for men who have sex with men rose from 159 in 2016 to 177 in 2017, an 11 percent increase.

Michael Kharfen, senior deputy director of the D.C. Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Administration, known as HAHSTA, said city health officials view the 2017 data for new HIV cases as a temporary “pause” in a multi-year trend in which new HIV cases have steadily declined.

The HAHSTA report released on Wednesday, called the Annual Epidemiology & Surveillance Report, points out that the 368 new HIV cases reported in 2017 represents a decline of 31 percent from the 535 cases reported in 2013 and a 73 percent decline from the 1,362 cases reported in 2007.

But the report also shows that the number of new HIV cases among young people between the ages of 13-29 rose from 134 in 2016 to 150 in 2017. During that same two-year period the number of new HIV cases for Latinos rose from 41 to 43 and the number of new cases for heterosexual men decreased from 44 in 2016 to 34 in 2017.

According to the report, in 2017 there were a total of 13,003 D.C. residents, or 1.9 percent, living with HIV. Out of that total, the report says, 6,134 were men who have sex with men, who comprised 27 percent of the new HIV diagnoses in 2017.

Meanwhile, although the overall number of new HIV cases remained stable in 2017, the report says there were record numbers and significant increases in the number of other sexually transmitted disease in D.C. in 2017.

There were 10,157 cases of chlamydia reported, an increase of 35 percent from 2013; 5,070 cases of gonorrhea, a 56 percent increase from 2013; and 318 cases of primary and secondary syphilis, a 13 percent increase from 2013 to 2017, the report shows.

In an effort to resume the trend of declining HIV cases the report says the Department of Health is expanding the city’s effort to promote the HIV prevention drug regimen known as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP. It says the city helped more than 1,700 people obtain PrEP in 2017, contributing to a 70 percent increase in people starting PrEP that year.

This year, the report says, the city is launching a new PrEP Drug Assistance Program called PrEP-DAP to provide financial assistance for people whose health insurance plans don’t provide affordable coverage for Truvada, the drug used for PrEP.

Whitman-Walker Health, the D.C. health care provider that reaches out to the LGBT community, announced on Wednesday that it expanded its own PrEP program last year by launching a PrEP Clinic “designed to make it easier for more people to get, and stay, on PrEP.”

Medical research has shown that PrEP, which consists of taking a daily pill, is more than 92 percent effective in preventing HIV infection.

The newly released D.C. Annual Epidemiology & Surveillance Report can be viewed at dchealth.dc.gov.

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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