July 17, 2003
Guy Weston, director of the data and research division at HAA and author of the report, said his study compares the District to other cities rather than states, for the first time. Weston said data collection on infection is not consistent nationwide, so he could not compare infection rates, only incidence. The District did not start compiling infection rates until December 2001, and its figures are too premature for publication.
Almost 80 percent of all new AIDS cases in the District are among African Americans, who make up 61 percent of the population, HAA spokesperson Floyd Nelson said, and women account for nearly half the new cases in Wards 7 and 8. The agency estimates that 12,000 to 14,000 District residents are HIV-infected, in addition to the 8,108 people who have AIDS.
The District's AIDS incidence, national officials say, may point to problems with access to health care. "What this tells you is that those infected with HIV in D.C. ... are not getting the medical care that they should be getting," said Tom Coates, director of the San Francisco-based AIDS Research Institute. "Studies from national data show us that if you're African American you're less likely to be treated sooner."
Contributing to the problem, experts said, is a high rate of intravenous drug use among D.C. residents. Weston said his research showed that cities in the northeast and southern United States had the highest rates of new AIDS cases, and this, he said, is highly correlated with IV drug use. Weston will present his report at the National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta on July 28.