March 25, 2010
From 2004 through 2008, the number of new AIDS cases diagnosed annually in the District declined by 33.2 percent, from 786 to 525, according to the latest annual report issued by the Department of Health. AIDS mortality dropped 27.7 percent between 2004 and 2007. The proportion of late testers -- persons who received an AIDS diagnosis within 12 months of learning they were HIV-positive -- also declined, from 66.4 percent in 2004 to 57 percent in 2008.
The figures suggest that Washington's aggressive testing and treatment efforts are starting to pay off and could help bring new cases down, said Shannon L. Hader, D.C. HIV/AIDS Administration's director. "These are not easy gains," she added.
HIV testing by the city and its partners grew to 75,000 people in 2008, up significantly from 43,000 people in 2007. Last year, the city tested 95,000 people and distributed 3.5 million condoms.
"We're finding people who were not served previously," Hader said. "But as we find these people, we're finding there is more to do." Washington is one of three cities CDC lauded for its surveillance efforts in the past two years.
At the end of 2008, the District of Columbia had 16,513 residents living with HIV/AIDS, or about 3.2 percent of the population over 12 years old. Total cases in 2008 increased by 9.2 percent from 2007, and the disease remained at epidemic levels in nearly every ward.
"The bad news is that our prevalence rate is still unacceptably high by any measure," said Walter Smith, director of the nonprofit watchdog D.C. Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. "There are a lot of people in the highest-risk group that we seem to not be reaching."
Exposure through male-male sexual contact was the leading mode of transmission among those living with HIV/AIDS (37.3 percent), followed by heterosexual contact (27 percent) and injection drug use (17.4 percent). However, among new AIDS cases in the District, the leading mode of transmission is heterosexual contact (30.6 percent), followed by male-male sexual contact (29.1 percent) and IDU (21.4 percent).
The full report is available online: http://doh.dc.gov/doh/frames.asp?doc=/doh/lib/doh/services/administration_offices/hiv_aids/pdf/annual_report_hahsta_march_2010.pdf.