On June 20th, the HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and TB Administration (HAHSTA) unveiled two reports: Department of Health, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and TB Epidemiology in the District of Columbia, Annual Report 2011 and the Heterosexual Relationships and HIV in Washington, D.C.
Report findings described a doubling of HIV infection in Black women since 2008 and showed that women were about three times more likely to be HIV positive than their male counterparts. This captured local and national attention in print media including The Washington Post and New York Daily News
On June 26, 2012, Tiffany West, Bureau Chief, in the Bureau of Strategic Information at D.C.'s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and TB Administration (HAHSTA) explained the details of the reports to a group of nearly 50 people including The Women's Collective clients and staff, consumers, and community based organizations.
Key facts from the reports:
- The District switched from code based reporting to names based reporting. The switch in data collection process had a significant impact on data outputs.
- The recruitment strategy and qualification process for the 2011 and 2008 Heterosexual Studies varied significantly. In 2011, the study primarily included women and men earning less than $10,000 a year within similar social networks.
- In the Heterosexual Study the rate among women studied rose from 6.3% in 2008 to 12.1% in 2010.
- In the Heterosexual Study the HIV rate among heterosexual men studied remained about the same between 2008 and 2010 (3.9%).
- The 2011 Annual Report notes that at the end of 2010, 4.3% of black residents were living with HIV.
- In 2010, 2.7% of all D.C. residents had been diagnosed with and were living with HIV/AIDS according to the 2011 Annual Report.
- Data in the 2011 Annual Report confirms that 92.4% of D.C. women diagnosed with HIV/AIDS are Black.
Noting the high HIV infection rate of poor women, The Women's Collective and community members urged Ms. West to communicate her findings to stakeholders responsible for addressing the socioeconomic causes of the epidemic in addition to the behavioral factors. TWC and community partners acknowledged that that socioeconomic factors such as education achievement, mental health needs, safe and stable housing, and reliable and sustainable income are as important as behavioral factors in fighting the epidemic.
As we look to and beyond AIDS 2012 we encourage everyone to advocate to local entities including HAHSTA and the Mayor's Commission on HIV to create a coordinated plan to address HIV across the District. The data continues to demonstrate the need for an integrated approach that addresses the link between housing, violence against women, economic insecurity, sexual and reproductive health, racial disparities, and HIV/AIDS risk and infection.
We cannot afford for these reports and the prolonged disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS among women to be just another headline. There are real women and real issues behind the numbers. We demand a real strategy to address them.
Link to our opinion editorial submitted to The Washington Post, and printed as a guest editorial in Candace Y.A. Montague's "D.C. HIV/AIDS Examiner" blog, in response to the Post's June 21 article entitled, "In D.C., HIV Infection Rate Nearly Doubles for Some Poor Black Women."