D.C. Backsliding in Fight Against AIDS, Report Says
March 11, 2011
The District's AIDS fight has lost momentum for the first time since the DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice began tracking the local response in 2005, according to a new report. Washington's 3 percent HIV prevalence rate ranks highest of any US city.
One deficiency highlighted by the report was the mayoral leadership of Adrian M. Fenty at the close of his administration. After declaring HIV/AIDS his main health priority, the report alleges Fenty's focus and involvement diminished over time. "We think that leadership and public engagement must go deeper than appearing at HIV/AIDS-themed events," it said. Other demerits include the collection and maintenance of HIV/AIDS information, grant management of support groups, and the closing of PreventionWorks, the city's primary distributor of sterile needles to drug addicts.
Appleseed Center Executive Director Walter Smith noted that although the District's assessment was primarily A's and B's, its marks previously had been steadily improving. "So slippage in key areas is, therefore, doubly troubling to us," said Smith.
According to Smith, mayoral apathy filtered down through legislative and neighborhood allies. The organization has admonished Mayor Vincent C. Gray to rebuild the impetus of the city's fight against its HIV/AIDS epidemic and heighten his individual role.
Gray recently appointed a 27-member commission on HIV/AIDS, which he will chair. It will concentrate on removing hurdles to treatment, formulating policy recommendations to lower new infection rates, measuring those rates, strengthening prevention and sex education in schools, and subsidizing needle-exchange services.
Although Smith heralds the commission's formation, he said "the mayor has to use it to make things happen."
To access the report, visit www.dcappleseed.org/library/DC%20Appleseed%20HIV%20Report%20Card%206%20Final.pdf.
03.08.2011; Lena H. Sun
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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