December 7, 2020 at 11:28 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Bowser announces plan to end HIV in D.C. by 2030
reopening, gay news, Washington Blade, HIV epidemic
Mayor Muriel Bowser called for stepping up the city’s HIV prevention and medical intervention efforts. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Dec. 4 announced the release of an updated plan by the city’s Department of Health to end the HIV epidemic in the nation’s capital by 2030.

The plan, among other things, calls for stepping up the city’s HIV prevention and medical intervention efforts to reduce the number of new HIV diagnoses in the District to 130 or fewer by 2030.

“This bold plan is an internal part of our effort to end the HIV epidemic in the District and continue our mission to reduce new HIV diagnoses and improve treatment and prevention programs,” Bowser said in a statement. “We’re proud to be an early adopter of this strategy and, while we’ve made progress, much work lies ahead,” she said.

The new plan calls for updating a plan for ending the HIV epidemic in D.C. launched in 2016 called the 90/90/90/50 Plan: Ending the HIV Epidemic in the District of Columbia by 2020. The original goals of the 2016 plan were to reduce the number of new HIV cases diagnosed in D.C. in 2020 by 50 percent of the number diagnosed in 2016.

The 2020 goal, which would have been 200 or fewer new HIV cases, is not likely to be achieved, according to data released by the DOH, which shows there were 282 new cases in 2019, the most recent year where data is available. DOH has said data for 2020 won’t be available until sometime in 2021.

The 282 new cases in 2019 nevertheless represented a significant reduction from the 400 new cases diagnosed in D.C. in 2015.

The 2019 data also show that the 2016 90/90/90/50 plan achieved or came very close to achieving its goals for three other important parameters for curtailing the HIV epidemic. They include having 90 percent of D.C. residents with HIV know their HIV status, 90 percent of those diagnosed with HIV would be on medical treatment, and 90 percent of those on treatment would have achieved viral suppression to a level where the virus is undetectable.

Experts in HIV research have said people with HIV at an undetectable level of viral load means they cannot transmit the virus to someone else through sexual relations.

The 2019 DOH data show that at least 90 percent of HIV-positive people in D.C. knew their HIV status; slightly more than 80 percent of those who were HIV positive were in treatment; and 88 percent of those in treatment had reached viral suppression.

The city’s revised plan as announced by Bowser last week calls for achieving by 2030 95 percent of people with HIV in the District knowing their HIV status through new and improved testing options; 95 percent of those with HIV being on treatment by starting medication the same day they are diagnosed; and 95 percent of people on treatment achieving viral suppression through an improved promotion of the U=U campaign. That campaign stands for “Undetectable equals Untransmittable.”

The revised 2030 plan also calls for reaching out to more people at risk for contracting HIV to arrange for them to be on pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, an HIV medication that is considered 99 percent effective in preventing people from becoming infected with HIV.

“We’ll also be tracking numbers by specific populations: Black men, Black women, Latino gay men, young Black gay men, transgender individuals, and people who use drugs,” according to a statement about the plan posted on the city’s newly launched plan website,

“The District values health equity and recognizes structural barriers, such as racism and stigma, to optimal health outcomes and individual success,” said Dr. LaQuandra S. Nesbitt, director of the D.C. Department of Health. “These structural and social factors, including housing and education, provide a vital context to the health strategies that will accelerate reducing new HIV diagnoses and ensuring successful health outcomes for people living with HIV,” Nesbitt said.

“Together we can achieve our vision of an ended HIV epidemic supporting the best and most equitable health outcomes for all communities in D.C.,” said Michael Kharfen, senior deputy director of the DOH’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, and STD & TB Administration.

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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