Suburbs Trail D.C. in Fighting AIDS, Study Says
April 28, 2010
Thousands of HIV/AIDS patients in Washington-area suburbs in Maryland and Virginia lack medical and support services, says a report released Tuesday, and poor coordination among jurisdictions is in part to blame. Of the region's 17,000-plus AIDS patients, 46 percent live in the suburbs, while 54 percent live in the District of Columbia. An additional 13,000 area residents are HIV-positive.
The Washington AIDS Partnership, an initiative of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers and Kaiser Permanente, commissioned the study. The region assessed included Montgomery, Prince George's, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, and Manassas.
The report recommends that state and local governments support routine and voluntary opt-out HIV testing in health care settings and offer patients rapid oral swab HIV screening in emergency departments. The suburbs need to improve school-based sex education, and Virginia and Maryland should assess HIV/AIDS in the suburbs more frequently, the report says.
While Maryland and Virginia perform federally mandated HIV/AIDS studies every five years, the Washington suburbs' relative infrequency of assessments make it hard to determine the scope of any problems there, according to the report.
"We do look at regional data on a regular basis," said Elaine Martin, Virginia's HIV prevention director. "The entire state gets less [federal] funding than the District of Columbia. I don't think they have an unfair level of funding. Their positive rate is much higher than Virginia's. But in some cases, Virginia is underfunded."
The director of Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Heather Hauck, also cited low federal funding.
"We're not giving grades, like a report card," said Channing Wickham, the partnership's executive director. "We were able to provide a blueprint for action. We are interested in funding next steps."
To access the report, visit http://washingtonaidspartnership.org/PDF/ProfilesProject.pdf.
04.27.2010; Darryl Fears