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D.C. AIDS Commission Commences While the Government Gets Its "Report Card"

By Candace Y.A. Montague

March 8, 2011

Mayor Vince Gray leads inaugural meeting of DC's Commission on AIDS. Photo: Courtesy of Larry Bryant.

Mayor Vince Gray leads inaugural meeting of DC's Commission on AIDS. Photo: Courtesy of Larry Bryant.

Local non-profit organizations leaders react to two events that took place yesterday regarding AIDS in DC. First, DC Appleseed, a non-profit group devoted to solving public policy problems, released its first 'report card' on the District's response to the AIDS crisis in five years. In the report, Appleseed gave grades to the different ways the District government addressed the AIDS crisis in the last sixteen months. Also, Mayor Gray called the first meeting of the recently established DC Commission on AIDS. The panel had 20 of its 27 slots filled by members of the education, business, and medical community. But according to some local AIDS Service Organization leaders more input from the community will be necessary to completing this process.

The District's grades in three areas of prevention increased since 2005. Condom distribution went from a B+ to A-, Youth Initiatives and Substance Abuse treatment both went from a B to a B+. Appleseed credits the rise in condom distribution, meeting goals for youth HIV prevention, and improved substance abuse as reasons for the high marks. The attention to youth services was a plus to Adam Tenner, Executive Director of Metro Teen AIDS. "The DC Appleseed Report Card clearly delineates the need to improve sexual and reproductive health education, including HIV and STD education, in all DC schools."

A decline in grades was reported in HIV surveillance (from A to A-) , Grants Management (from B+ to B), Leadership (B+ to B) and Syringe Exchange (B+ to B). The descent in the syringe exchange score comes as no surprise since the city's largest provider for this service closed last month. David Mariner, Executive Director of The DC Center, said he expected a lower score on condom distribution. "I am surprised to see the score on condom distribution improved as we continue to experience some challenges with the condom distribution process."

The DC Commission on AIDS began with a press conference yesterday. The commission's charge for now include developing evidence-based HIV/AIDS policy recommendations to help reduce HIV infection rates, developing recommendations for the District‘s HIV/AIDS Strategy, and developing recommendations to control the epidemic. Commission members included Public School Chancellor Kaya Henderson, Howard University Medical Professor Dr. Lisa Fitzpatrick, and former police chief now Chairman of the US Parole Commission Isaac Fulwood. Mayor Gray stated, "by uniting the government with experts in the field of HIV and respected members of the community, we can create a comprehensive approach to treating and ending an epidemic which has affected our entire city leaving no ward or community untouched." Cyndee Clay, Executive Director of H.I.P.S. said she hopes for more variegation on the commission. "While we applaud the diversity and commitment of the commission we’re concerned about the lack of community representation by HIV prevention providers, individuals at high risk for HIV infection, and consumer of HIV/AIDS services on the commission. We hope that the Mayor will move quickly to address those gaps." Adam Tenner, Executive Director of Metro Teen AIDS, echoed that the need for community members would help the commission. "With some slots left to fill, we'd love to see more representation for youth and people who live east of the river."

To see DC Appleseed's report card in full, click here.

What grade would you give the District in terms of its response to AIDS? Leave a comment below.

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See Also
More HIV Prevention Policy News on Mid-Atlantic U.S. States

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D.C. HIV/AIDS Examiner

Candace Y.A. Montague

Candace Y.A. Montague

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 and emPower News Magazine.

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