Mayor Fenty Pledges Increased HIV Testing, No-Cost Condom Distribution
Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty's administration on Mondaypledged to triple within one year the number of no-cost condomsdistributed by the city, as well as to work with hospitals to increaseHIV testing in emergency departments, in an effort to curb the spreadof the virus, the Washington Post reports (Nakamura, Washington Post, 11/27).
Theannouncement follows the release of a report that called HIV/AIDS a"modern epidemic" in the district with "complexities and challengesthat continue to threaten the lives and well-being of far too manyresidents." According to the report, almost 12,500 district residentswere known to be living with HIV/AIDS in 2006. Thirty-seven percent ofHIV cases were transmitted through heterosexual contact, compared with25% that were transmitted among men who have sex with men.
Thenumber of HIV cases in the district began declining in 2003, but thedecrease likely is the result of underreporting or delayed reporting,the report said. One in 20 district residents is HIV-positive and onein 50 is living with AIDS, according to Shannon Hader, head of thecity's HIV/AIDS Administration. The city's cumulative number of AIDS cases is more than 17,400.
Morethan two-thirds of AIDS cases in the district during the past 10 yearswere among people who progressed to AIDS within one year of beingdiagnosed with HIV, compared with 39% of AIDS cases nationwide, thereport found. The report also found that more people ages 40 to 49 werebeing diagnosed with HIV than any other age group. In addition, all ofthe 36 children in the district who tested positive for HIV since 2002contracted the virus during birth (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/26).
Hadersaid the HIV/AIDS Administration plans to scale up several initiativesthat began before she started at the administration in October, the Postreports. Hader also said that she hopes to increase the number ofno-cost condoms distributed by the city to three million by 2009 tohelp prevent the spread of HIV. She added that she wants to "challenge"all hospital EDs to offer "rapid HIV testing" to help diagnose thevirus in earlier stages. George Washington University Medical Center and Howard University Hospitalhave the only EDs that currently offer HIV testing, Hader said. Inaddition, Hader said she plans to collaborate with the city's sevenbirthing centers to draft guidelines and set up outreach and testingsites to help prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission.
"Thesethings have already been started, but we want to use the report tobuild on them," Hader said, adding, "We're using all the tools in thetool kit, and we're also looking at all of our tool kits, figuring outwhere there are gaps." Hader said she does not plan to request moreHIV/AIDS funding in the coming year but added that if early testing andtreatment rates are increased, the programs could become more costly (Washington Post, 11/27).
The figures in the report are "harrowing," but "with a new director ofHIV/AIDS administration, plenty of funding and, now, data, the districtstands a chance of beating back this killer that has no cure," a Posteditorial says. According to the editorial, doctors and hospitals needto routinely test pregnant women for HIV, and prevention and treatmentefforts "must be accelerated." The Post adds that Fentyand Hader have committed themselves to this goal, but "their effortswill be useless if people think they are somehow immune to theepidemic." The editorial concludes that "AIDS is an equal-opportunitykiller" (Washington Post, 11/27).
Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyHIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report ispublished for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser FamilyFoundation.