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D.C.'s HIV rate climbs to 3.2 percent

Local,News,Nation,DC,Michael Neibauer

More than 3 percent of District residents have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, a "modern epidemic" that D.C. officials say is likely much worse as upward of half of those infected don't know they have the disease.

The number of known HIV cases among D.C. residents 12 years or older rose 9 percent between 2007 and 2008, from 15,120 to 16,513, according to an epidemiology report released Wednesday. Overall, 3.2 percent of the total population has been diagnosed with HIV, and that number will continue to rise as more people are tested, enter medical treatment and receive the care they need to stay alive.

"The only way it would go down is if people started dying or our population doubled," Dr. Shannon Hader, director of the District's HIV/AIDS Administration, said during a press conference outside the Whitman Walker Clinic Max Robinson Center in Southeast.

D.C. HIV stats

»  Diagnosed: 4.7 percent of black residents, 2.1 percent of Hispanics and 1.8 percent of whites

»  HIV population: 70 percent male, 75 percent black

»  90 percent of infected whites and Hispanics survive to 10 years; only 67 percent of blacks.

Between 30 and 50 percent of infected D.C. residents don't know it, Hader said. It is a "modern epidemic," she said, "modern in both its scale and its complexity." District officials, the report states, is "confident that all our efforts will result in fewer new HIV infections, but this will be more evident and measurable over the longer term."

There are "indications we're heading in the right direction," Mayor Adrian Fenty said. There was a 33.2 percent decline in the number of newly reported AIDS cases between 2004 and 2008, and the number of D.C. residents dying with AIDS fell by 30 percent between 2004 and 2007. Roughly 30 percent of HIV cases progressed to AIDS within 12 months in 2007, down from 47 percent in 2004.

The District funded nearly 100,000 HIV tests in 2009, according to the report, distributed 3.5 million condoms, got 350,000 needles off the streets and doubled the number of residents receiving free HIV medications.

The data contained in the voluminous report, the city's third annual epidemiology study, allows the District to "take our limited resources and create evidence-based responses" to the HIV crisis, said D.C. Councilman David Catania, health committee chairman.

"When you see the numbers going up you might be alarmed, but it's because we choose not to live in darkness," he said.

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