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Initial Results From Washington, D.C., HIV Testing Program Show City's HIV Prevalence More Than Twice National Average

September 20, 2006

Initial results from a Washington, D.C., campaign to have all residents tested for HIV show that HIV prevalence in the city is more than twice the nation's average, according to results released Tuesday during a meeting of the Mayor's Task Force on HIV and AIDS, the Washington Post reports. According to the initial results, released three months into the HIV testing drive, nearly 3% of the more than 7,000 district residents who have been tested are HIV-positive (Levine, Washington Post, 9/20). The district Department of Health in June launched the campaign titled, "Come Together D.C., Get Screened for HIV," urging residents ages 14 to 84 to get tested for HIV. As part of the campaign, organizers are distributing 80,000 rapid HIV tests, which produce results in about 20 minutes, at no cost to hospital emergency departments, private physicians offices, community health programs, detoxification centers and substance use and sexually transmitted infection treatment clinics. The city has allotted about $8 million for the project, some of which is going toward counseling and medical referrals for those who test positive for the virus. Administration officials prior to the program's launch mailed information to 45 physician groups in the city and held discussions with ED doctors in the city's larger hospitals (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/26). Community health organizations in June administered 3,800 HIV tests, almost double the number of tests typically conducted, officials said Tuesday. The campaign over the summer tested 1,843 people at community-based organizations and at weekly testing events. The results -- which offer "the first definitive look at the prevalence of HIV infection in the city" -- support what local officials have "long suspected: that the city has one of the highest [HIV] infection rates in the country," the Post reports. Testing results in the last three months show that 10% of men and women who visited a needle-exchange program's mobile van are HIV-positive and that more than one out of every 20 inmates at the D.C. jail is living with the virus, the Post reports.

Reaction, Next Steps
"All the numbers point to [the fact that] we have a serious problem in our community," Marsha Martin, director of the district's Administration for HIV Policy and Programs, said, adding, "We've come a long way ... We have a community that is talking about HIV on an ongoing basis, and that's real important because before it wasn't being talked about at all." District officials over the next few months say in addition to HIV testing, they plan to increase HIV prevention efforts. The city has allotted $60,000 to distribute one million condoms primarily to restaurants, bars, liquor stores and hotels. In addition, Martin said she plans this fall to ask about 200 district physicians to participate in the HIV testing program through their private practices. According to the Post, most HIV tests nationwide are done in doctors' offices rather public health venues. District HIV/AIDS administration officials by the end of 2006 say they expect to establish a comprehensive analysis of residents tested for HIV, by gender, age, ethnicity and possibly ZIP code (Washington Post, 9/20).

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