Michael Crawford

DC Goverment's Response to AIDS Epidemic = EPIC FAIL

Filed By Michael Crawford | March 16, 2009 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics

You know that things are beyond bad when the HIV/AIDS rate in DC is compared to such Western African countries as Uganda and Kenya.

At least 3 percent of District residents have HIV or AIDS, a total that far surpasses the 1 percent threshold that constitutes a "generalized and severe" epidemic, according to a report scheduled to be released by health officials tomorrow.

That translates into 2,984 residents per every 100,000 over the age of 12 -- or 15,120 -- according to the 2008 epidemiology report by the District's HIV/AIDS office.

"Our rates are higher than West Africa," said Shannon L. Hader, director of the District's HIV/AIDS Administration, who once led the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's work in Zimbabwe. "They're on par with Uganda and some parts of Kenya."

"We have every mode of transmission" -- men having sex with men, heterosexual and injected drug use -- "going up, all on the rise, and we have to deal with them," Hader said.

More detailed results from a report on HIV in DC funded by the CDC and conducted by the George Washington University School of Health and Health Services will be released today.

The fact that the DC government's response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been an unmitigated disaster shouldn't be news to anyone even remotely familiar with the situation. It has long been known that the DC's HIV/AIDS Administration was rife with incompetence and a lack of oversight from city officials.

What is shocking is just how little pressure has been put on city officials by local activists.

At a community forum focused on GBT men's health last year sponsored by The DC Center I made the observation that city officials and local public health professionals had failed in educating men about ways to make healthier decisions around HIV and other health related issues. The other people in the room were shocked into silence that someone would suggest that our community needs far more than the constant "we will do better" mea culpas that DC government health officials offer when questioned about their failure to develop an effective response after more than 25 years of the AIDS epidemic.

We will be taking a much closer look at the numbers when the surveillance data is released.

Its important to note that while the new information in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in DC will provide a more accurate picture of how the disease is impacting the District it covers only people who have gotten tested. The true numbers are likely much worse and we are still waiting for the DC government to do something other than wring its hands in worry.

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