July 20, 2012
According to the advocacy group D.C. Appleseed, the District of Columbia's recently released HIV statistics are "troubling" because they show slight increases instead of decreases in three key measures. These are the HIV transmission rate, the number of new HIV diagnoses, and the proportion of new diagnoses that progressed from HIV to AIDS in less than 12 months.
D.C. Health official Gregory Pappas disputed the group's conclusions in an e-mail, saying the data were misinterpreted. According to the health department, signs of progress include a decline in the total number of new HIV and AIDS cases. Appleseed's executive director Walter Smith acknowledged that some statistics have not been reported long enough to show conclusive trends.
The prevalence rate of District residents older than 12 living with HIV or AIDS in 2010 was 2.7 percent according to the latest annual report, one of the highest rates for any US city. Among African Americans, who comprise almost half of the city's population, the rate is 4.3 percent.
Although the HIV transmission rate went up from 2009 to 2010, health officials said this increase was due to change in reporting systems to eliminate duplication. Also, the increase in newly diagnosed HIV cases -- from 575 in 2009 to 617 in 2010 -- was due to expanded testing, according to health officials.
Pappas added that the data show that the District is finding people with the disease earlier, leading to more successful treatment.
About 52 percent of the 474 newly diagnosed AIDS cases in 2010 were advanced infections, meaning the patients progressed to AIDS within 12 months of their HIV diagnosis, an increase from 50 percent of 506 cases the year before.