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A Look in the Rearview Mirror: Washington, D.C., and HIV/AIDS in 2010

December 6, 2010

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July: While we sweltered through the humidity outdoors, we sweated something bigger than the temperature indoors. The National HIV/AIDS Strategy was released after 15 months of community discussions, meetings and revisions. Most of the local nonprofits and advocacy groups were pleased with the results. However, Housing Works, which has an office in Northwest, was not exactly jumping for joy. When CEO Charles King came to town during this month, he turned heads in true ACT UP style by interrupting the President's remarks during a reception.

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The Washington AIDS Partnership launched the D.C.'s Doin' It campaign, using a $500,000 grant from the MAC AIDS Fund to distribute 500,000 free female condoms through five non-profit organizations. Female condoms have been redesigned to be easier to use, and the price was lowered.

August: A mayoral forum was sponsored by D.C. Fights Back at Eastern Market on AIDS in the city. It was disappointing, at best, to see how little the candidates knew about AIDS and how much they didn't have a plan for fighting it in the city. One candidate openly admitted, "I didn't even know there was a National HIV/AIDS Strategy." Enough said.

September: Back to school and basic human rights. Many advocacy groups would say that housing is one of those basic human rights. The housing waiting list, which was once just over 600 last December, catapulted to over 800 people at last count. During this month, Vincent Gray was the Democratic primary winner over current Mayor Adrian Fenty. Gray said, in an interview with the D.C. HIV/AIDS Examiner, that he was very concerned about the housing situation in D.C.. Let's hope the best is yet to come from Mayor-elect Gray.

October: Let the coup d'état begin. Translation: It's time for a Rubber Revolution. Straight from the braintrust of the D.C. Health Department comes a new social marketing campaign called The Rubber Revolution. This campaign was designed to encourage people to not only have a condom but also to actually put one on.

My prediction for 2011: I predict very few changes for the upcoming year. Mayor-elect Gray will have his hands full with trying to balance the budget and right the wrongs of outgoing Mayor Fenty. Some of his efforts will indirectly affect people living with HIV such as bringing more jobs to the city (thus improving financial status) and attempting to continue the reform of D.C. Public Schools (hopefully addressing the issue of sex education in schools). He will probably not do much to improve the housing situation, which would save lives. Members of the D.C. council have already expressed wanting a new D.C. that will attract an artistic, creative capital class. The not-so-hidden message there is that D.C. needs some more rich people.

The promise of the 2012 International AIDS Conference will force the city to clean up a few messes here and there. This year the 2012 D.C. Community Coalition was formed to be a part of assuring that D.C. has an active, visible role in the IAC 2012. Perhaps this watchdog group can lean on the D.C. government to finally acknowledge that elephant in the room and start a trail of peanuts going out the door.

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Candace Y.A. Montague has been learning about HIV since 1988 (and she has the certificates from the American Red Cross to prove it). Health is a high priority to Candace because she believes that nothing can come of your life if you're not healthy enough to enjoy it. One of her two master's degrees is in Community Health Promotion and Education. Candace was inspired to act against HIV after seeing a documentary in 2008 about African-American women and HIV. She knew that writing was the best way for her to make a difference and help inform others. Candace is a native Washingtonian and covers HIV news all around D.C. She has covered fundraisers, motorcycle rides, town hall meetings, house balls, Capitol Hill press conferences, election campaigns and protests for The DC Examiner.com and emPower News Magazine.

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See Also
HIV/AIDS Year in Review: Looking Back on 2010 (and Ahead to 2011)
HIV/AIDS in the Mid-Atlantic

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