AIDS Issues Update Blog

Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS

HIV Rate Doubles In D.C.’s Low-Income Black Women

Posted by Lucile Scott , June 21, 2012

HIV Rate Doubles In D.C.’s Low-Income Black Women

The D.C. Department of Health released data yesterday showing that the HIV rate in heterosexual African American women in the city’s poorest areas doubled in just two years, skyrocketing from 6.3 percent to 12.1 percent. “It seems the HIV epidemic among heterosexuals may be more significant than the previous study estimated,” said Michael Rhein, senior vice president at the Institute for Public Health Innovation.

Overall, an estimated of 90% of the city’s women with HIV are black. The new data came from a sample population of heterosexual men and women predominantly living in wards 7 and 8, among the cities poorest, who were tested in 2008 and again in 2010. The study participants were nearly all black, 62% made less than $10,000 a year and 37% were unemployed. D.C.-wide the HIV rate is 2.7 percent, already the highest of any U.S. city and at epidemic levels, but in this area of D.C. the overall rate was 8%, according to the Washington Post. City officials claim the increased rate of diagnosis reflects the effectiveness of testing campaigns and the fact that more D.C. residents are now aware of their status, though the Health Department’s Greg Pappas estimates that 20 to 30% of the District’s HIV-positive population remains undiagnosed.

The announcement comes as the capital prepares to host July’s International AIDS Conference, when the newly released data shows the city will also have some positive developments to report. For one, new diagnosis citywide dropped nearly 50% over two years, even with the increased testing rates. The decrease reflects a 60% drop in new diagnosis in injection drug users, a development city health officials attribute the expansion of needle-exchange programs. Additionally, the city has seen a drop in new AIDS diagnosis, in part because the percent of infected people connected with care within three months of diagnosis rose from 58 to 76.1%.

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