Latest data shows mixed results in DC’s efforts to fight HIV/AIDS

D.C. has dropped from high to moderate among jurisdictions dealing with HIV, according to health experts who gathered on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day to release the latest data.

Clover Barnes, senior deputy director of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration, the office that issues data on HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases in D.C., talked about the findings in HAHSTA’s latest report.

“There are 11,904 people living with HIV in the District. Of those, 71% are Black,” Barnes said.

That data shows, “We need to bring awareness to the disparities that are still existing in our epidemic today,” Barnes said.

The 2021 data, which is the latest available, show there were 230 new infections compared to 270 in 2019, Barnes said. That decrease in reported cases is likely related to the fact that many people put off seeking routine medical treatment, including getting tested for HIV/AIDS, during the pandemic.

Barnes said Tuesday during a news conference that she expects the number of new infections to creep up closer to the 2019 levels over the next year, “as people return to their care-seeking behavior” and more testing is performed.

Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, who heads the Biden Administration’s response to mpox, said there’s a need to see HIV/AIDS as part of, not separate from, other viruses and conditions that make fighting the spread of diseases more challenging.

“People do not ever just face one health challenge, especially those people whose health is further impacted by biases, like racism, homophobia, transphobia, and many other phobias and isms that hinder access and success in health,” Daskalakis said.

“HIV risk and outcomes are made worse by unstable housing or homelessness,” Daskalakis said, adding that when people have access to stable housing, they are able to get on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and other treatments.

Barnes said that while D.C. is working to streamline services for people looking for testing and treatment for HIV/AIDS, “We need to connect more people to care and that we need to get them into those programs that we have proven have worked.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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