HIV prevention campaign takes many forms

WASHINGTON — The nudging message goes out on buses, billboards and
commercials. One of the next iterations puts it simply, borrowing from a
social media obsession: “check your selfie.”

The District’s HIV Prevention Campaign takes multiple forms to get across a
message of protection, testing and treatment.

Five years on, health officials believe it’s making a difference in the city’s

D.C. has long had among the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the country, comparable
to some developing nations.

The awareness campaign has targeted indifference and ignorance that contribute
to the problem.

“We’ve seen over the past five years a more than 40 percent decrease in new
HIV cases,” says Michael Kharfen, the senior deputy director of the HIV/AIDS,
STD, Hepatitis and TB Administration.

By definition, D.C. still has an epidemic, with more than 2 percent of the
population affected.

“What we need to do is have people tested and know if they are HIV positive,”
Kharfen says. “And if they are, to get into care and treatment.”

Prevention has been a key element of the campaign. Before it began five years
ago, the D.C. Department of Health distributed about 500,000 free condoms.

Last year, it passed out nearly 7,000,000, propelling D.C. to the highest rate
of distribution, per capita, in the country.

“We’re reducing the stigma around HIV, we’re making this a much more routine
part of people’s behavior, and this is contributing significantly to changing
the course of the epidemic,” he says.

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