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Tracking Washington D.C.'s Progress in the Fight Against HIV

Posted on Tuesday, February 21, 2017
It's been over three decades since the U.S. began its fight against HIV/AIDS, and astounding progress has been made to reduce the spread and devastating consequences of the infection some pockets in the U.S. 
It's been over three decades since the U.S. began its fight against HIV/AIDS, and astounding progress has been made to reduce the spread and devastating consequences of the infection some pockets in the U.S. However, the fight must continue; there are many pockets in the U.S. where HIV is considered epidemic. A 2009 survey estimates that 3% of the population of D.C. was infected; this is a higher percentage than West Africa, which was considered one of the worst place in the world for HIV infections.

The HIV burden falls disproportionately with African Americans accounting for 75% of those infected, and females making up 90% of those living with HIV, according to a report from the District's Department of Health. The rate of HIV among African American females is 24 times that of white females in D.C.

Changes

City leaders began taking action in 2005. Matthew Rand, a health educator and self-test project coordinator at the Whitman-Walker HIV center, said that "A combination of condom distribution, which increased tenfold since 2007, a needle sharing program that removed contaminated needles from the streets, and an increase in testing all contributed to the progress."

Because of these changes, the newly-diagnosed rate fell 57% while intravenous drug use transmission fell by 80%.

The 90-90-90-50 Program

To keep this initiative growing, the city last year announced its 90-90-90-50 plan, which states that if "90 percent of people know their HIV status, 90 percent of people who are living with the virus are in care or receiving treatment, 90 percent of people with HIV have an undetectable level of the virus in their bodies, and the number of new diagnoses in D.C. will be reduced by 50 percent by 2020."

As of 2013, data from the D.C. Department of Health show reductions in HIV deaths and new infections, as well as an increase in the rate of HIV-positive individuals receiving care.

Washington D.C. has taken steps to minimize the impact of HIV infection, specifically in the African American community and has demonstrated the success of innovative programs to reduce HIV transmission.