DC’s AIDS crisis: “Our rates are higher than West Africa…They’re on par with Uganda and some parts of Kenya.”

AIDS is an epidemic in the capitol of the U.S. It’s a very, very bad situation. This bleak news first appeared in the Washington Blade on Friday:

A report from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention says Washington has the highest HIV death rate in the country, though the city’s infection rate improved slightly from 2006. The report, released last month, also says 871 new cases of HIV were reported in D.C. in 2007, the most recently completed calendar year the report considered.

Justin Goforth, head of the Whitman-Walker Clinic’s medical adherence unit, said the new data show that “here in D.C., we have an epidemic that’s out of control.”

Yesterday, it was front page in the Washington Post:

At least 3 percent of District residents have HIV or AIDS, a total that far surpasses the 1 percent threshold that constitutes a “generalized and severe” epidemic, according to a report scheduled to be released by health officials tomorrow.

That translates into 2,984 residents per every 100,000 over the age of 12 — or 15,120 — according to the 2008 epidemiology report by the District’s HIV/AIDS office.

“Our rates are higher than West Africa,” said Shannon L. Hader, director of the District’s HIV/AIDS Administration, who once led the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s work in Zimbabwe. “They’re on par with Uganda and some parts of Kenya.”

“We have every mode of transmission” — men having sex with men, heterosexual and injected drug use — “going up, all on the rise, and we have to deal with them,” Hader said.

The city needs to step up. The Federal government needs to step up. Sounds like DC may even need Bono to help focus attention on this tragedy.

While this crisis has been reaching epidemic proportions, Council Member David Catania has been on the attack against the Whitman-Walker clinic. It’s apparently been going on for a couple months now and, frankly, that doesn’t seem like the best use of anyone’s time right now. This city is facing a very real crisis. The DC Council and Whitman-Walker need to stay focused on the real issues and not get distracted.

One of Whitman-Walker’s newest board members, Justin Smith, has a blog, Justin’s HIV Journal, where he uses facebook, youtube and other new media and social networking tools to educate younger people about HIV and AIDS.

On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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