On Wednesday at a meeting of the Philadelphia City Council's Committee on Public Health and Human Services, Health Commissioner Donald F. Schwarz said the city's HIV infection rate of 114 new cases per 100,000 people is five times the national average. The committee is seeking answers to the city's continuing high rates of HIV infection.
Persons ages 13-24 comprised 15 percent of newly diagnosed HIV cases in Philadelphia, and in 2009, blacks accounted for 66 percent of new HIV cases. However, from 2005 to 2009, AIDS cases in the city declined by 64.6 percent. And HIV infections through IV drug use have dropped, thanks to a syringe-exchange program, Schwarz said.
Though AIDS service providers do solid work in Center City, not enough money reaches non-profits working in hotspots like north Philadelphia, southwest Philadelphia, and Germantown, said Amy Nunn, a Brown University assistant professor of medicine who studies HIV in Philadelphia.
"Simply handing out condoms and waiting for people to come to Center City for services is not going to solve the crisis," Nunn said.
Nunn suggested Philadelphia develop a campaign to promote HIV testing, noting that in cities like Washington and Chicago, "you cannot throw a stone without hitting an ad about HIV." She also suggested outreach to teenagers, whose knowledge about HIV/AIDS is inadequate.
The city is launching a new text messaging campaign to increase awareness, Schwarz said, as well as recruiting prominent black clergy to spread HIV awareness to congregants and other clergy.
Council member Jannie L. Blackwell recalled a similar hearing a decade ago, saying she hopes this time more action is taken. "Maybe in another 10 years we won't be sitting here again," she said.
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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