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Press Release

Shocking New Data on Washington, D.C.'s AIDS Epidemic Reveals Appalling Failure to Address the Crisis in Black America

Black AIDS Institute Urges Obama Administration and Congress to Take Immediate Steps to Reinvigorate National HIV Efforts -- HIV Worse Among DC Blacks Than In Many African Nations

March 16, 2009

Today's report in the Washington Post that 4% of Black residents in Washington D.C. -- and 7% of Black men -- have tested HIV-positive underscores the degree to which America has lost its way in the fight against AIDS.

"The AIDS epidemic in Washington DC is an unmitigated disaster and a national disgrace," said Phill Wilson, founder and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute.

In the capital of the world's richest and most powerful country, HIV prevalence is higher than in Port-au-Prince, the capital of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. HIV prevalence among Black men in Washington is 40% higher than in sub-Saharan Africa generally. Infection levels among all Blacks in the District of Columbia are higher than in 28 African countries.

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Shockingly, these statistics likely understate the extent of HIV infection in Washington D.C., as they include only people who have tested HIV-positive.

For years, the Black AIDS Institute has been urging our country's leaders to pay attention to the frightening growth of HIV infection in Black America. To date, these calls have not been heeded. In 2008, only 4 cents out of every dollar spent on HIV by the federal government supported HIV prevention activities.

President Obama's economic stimulus package is designed to breathe life into a moribund economy. The Black AIDS Institute is calling on the President and the congress to allocate dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to fund HIV testing and prevention efforts in Black America. "If there were ever shovel ready projects that would create jobs and save lives this is it," says Wilson. "America urgently needs an AIDS stimulus to awaken it from its lethargic response to an epidemic that is spiraling out of control."

Congress should immediately increase funding to cost-effective programs that promote HIV testing, prevent new HIV infections, and link people who test HIV-positive to life-saving medical care. The federal government should implement a massive new social marketing initiative to make knowing one's HIV status a basic social norm in Black communities. And federal leaders must provide robust support to build capacity in Black organizations to help lead this fight.

The statistics released by the District constitute a failing grade on the nation's AIDS report card:

  • Nearly 50% of people surveyed in the hardest-hit areas of Washington report having overlapping sexual partners in the last 12 months. Yet virtually no resources have been directed toward programs to alert sexually active adults to the special dangers of concurrent partnerships.
  • 40% of sexually active adults surveyed in high-prevalence neighborhoods were not aware of their HIV status. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 75% of the new HIV infections in this country are caused by people who don't know their HIV status.
  • 70% of those surveyed in Washington said they did not use a condom the last time they had sex.

What is happening in Washington is also happening elsewhere. HIV prevalence exceeds 5% in nine different zip codes in Detroit. In New York City's Manhattan borough, 17% of Black middle-aged men are living with HIV -- a level of infection that approaches national HIV prevalence in South Africa, the country with the largest number of HIV-infected people in the world. Last year, the CDC reported that the annual rate of new HIV infections was roughly 40% greater than previously believed and that Black people account for nearly one out of two new infections.

In earlier years, an effective response to AIDS in Black America was hindered by low levels of community awareness and commitment to the fight. This is no longer the case. Fourteen leading national Black organizations have joined with the Black AIDS Institute and its partners to implement a national AIDS action strategy and to commit specific, tangible, and trackable resources to AIDS activities. Unfortunately, these organizations have lacked a partner in the federal government for the last eight years.

Over the last eight years, funding for HIV prevention and the crucial federal Minority AIDS Initiative has declined in real terms. The results are all too evident in the shocking figures released by the District's HIV/AIDS Administration.



  
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This article was provided by Black AIDS Institute. Visit Black AIDS Institute's website to find out more about their activities and publications.
 
See Also
District of Columbia HIV/AIDS Prevalence at 3%, Report Says
Editorial, Opinion Piece Respond to HIV/AIDS Prevalence in District of Columbia
District of Columbia Report Likely Underestimated HIV/AIDS Prevalence, City to Increase Testing
Read the Full Report (PDF): District of Columbia HIV/AIDS Epidemiology Update 2008
TheBody.com's HIV/AIDS Resource Center for African Americans
HIV and Me: An African American's Guide to Living With HIV
More HIV Policy Issues Affecting the African-American Community

Reader Comments:

Comment by: A max (Denver, CO) Sat., Mar. 21, 2009 at 11:06 pm EDT
I saw the list of groups impacted by AIDS and wondered if there should be a footnote next to hetorosexuals called "men living on the "down low" sleeping with their girlfriends and/or wives who are spreading AIDS through the hetoeosexual community. Are there statistics reflecting how many heterosexuals contract AIDS through husbands and boyfriends living on the "down low"?

A max
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Comment by: Donna C. Honeywell (The Bronx, New York) Wed., Mar. 18, 2009 at 9:58 pm EDT
I pray that President Obama will give AIDS & HIV much serious consideration, funding and proper staffing for all that needs to be done to find a vaccine and a cure.
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