Monday, March 16, 2009
More than 4% of blacks in Washington D.C. are known to have HIV, along with almost 2% of Latinos and 1.4% of whites
At least 3% of District residents have HIV or AIDS, a total that far surpasses the 1% threshold that constitutes a "generalized and severe" epidemic, according to a report scheduled to be released by health officials. 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." The District's report found a 22% increase in HIV and AIDS cases from the 12,428 reported at the end of 2006, touching every race and sex across population and neighborhoods, with an epidemic level in all but one of the eight wards. Black men, with an infection rate of nearly 7%, carry the weight of the disease, according to the report, which also underscores that the District's HIV and AIDS population is aging. Almost 1 in 10 residents between the ages of 40 and 49 has the virus. Men having sex with men has remained the disease's leading mode of transmission. Heterosexual transmission and injection drug use closely follow, the report says. Three percent of black women carry the virus, partly a result of the increase in heterosexual transmissions. Ron Simmons, who is black, gay and HIV positive, said he's not shocked by the study's findings. "You have a high incidence of HIV among African Americans, and a lot of African Americans live in the city," said Simmons, who is a member of a black gay support group. "D.C. also has a high number of gay men, and HIV is high among gay black men." More than three-quarters -- 76% -- of the HIV infected are black, 70% are men and 70% are age 40 and older. Heterosexual sex was the principal mode of transmission for blacks with the disease, 33%. Men having sex with men was the chief mode of transmission for white residents, 78%; and Latinos, 49%. Black women represent more than a quarter of HIV cases in the District, and most, about 58%, were infected through heterosexual sex. About a quarter of black women were infected through drug use.