Metro Weekly

Report: DC’s HIV status still a “generalized epidemic”

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New cases of HIV and deaths related to the disease are falling dramatically in the District, but with 2.5% prevalence, the area remains what the World Health Organization defines as “a generalized epidemic.”

According to the District’s just-released annual report on HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, new cases of HIV are down 40% since 2009.

There were 553 new diagnoses of HIV in 2013, a number that has steadily edged down from 916 in 2009. During that time, new cases of HIV decreased by 43% for blacks, 31% for whites, and 18% for Hispanics.

Men sleeping with other men remains the most common way to contract HIV in the District, accounting for 42% of new cases. Heterosexual contact accounted for 28% of new cases, and 13% were caused by injection drug use.

DC deaths related to the disease have also decreased by half in four years: 109 people died in the District from HIV-related reasons in 2009, compared with 52 in 2013.  

Despite the fact that blacks and males are both minorities in DC, 73% of residents living with HIV are male, and three-quarters are black. Among females living with HIV, 92% are black, highlighting where government programs are failing. The age group with the highest prevalence of HIV is between 40 and 59, which makes up almost 60% of HIV cases in the District. Residents under 29 years old comprise less than 10% of HIV cases, and 14% of those living with HIV are at least 60 years old.

The WHO categorizes groups with HIV prevalence higher than 1% as reaching an epidemic level. All age groups in DC except those under 19 years old have reached epidemic levels. The 20-29 age group is only slightly above that threshold, at 1.1%. The age groups of those between 40-59 are more than six-fold above that level, and even those over 60 years old are more than double the epidemic threshold.

Likewise, each race is above the epidemic level threshold. Black residents with HIV are almost four times the 1% epidemic threshold; Hispanics are at 1.6% and whites are at 1.2%.

Black men who have sex with men and black men engaging in injection drug use represent 26%–the largest group of HIV cases in DC; black heterosexual females represent the second largest group.

The report also offers a progress report on some of the District’s initiatives to curb the impact of HIV.

An average of almost 450 publicly supported HIV tests were administered per day last year, a four-fold increase from 2007. Condom distribution has increased ten-fold to 6.1 million since 2007.

More to consider:

  • In 2014, DC distributed an average of about nine condoms per resident. In 2007, the number was about one per resident.
  • Almost 700,000 needles were removed from the street through needle exchange programs in 2014, up from 647,838 in 2013.
  • Gonorrhea cases have increased slightly to 2,626 new cases. Chlamydia is slightly down but remains about 2.5 times more common than gonorrhea.
  • The highest number of newly diagnosed HIV cases were found in Wards 1, 5, 7 and 8.
  • In both 2009 and 2013, the highest number of cases of chlamydia were found in Wards 5, 7 and 8.
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