HIV rate in Washington reaches epidemic proportions

March 17th, 2009 - 7:56 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 17 (DPA) A staggering three percent of Washington residents are living with HIV and AIDS, surpassing the one-percent level that constitutes a severe epidemic, according to a government report released Monday.
UNAIDS, the joint United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS, and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have defined an HIV epidemic as generalized and severe when the percentage of disease among residents of a specific geographic area exceeds 1 percent.

The US capital has the highest HIV prevalence in United States, according to the 2008 epidemiology report by the city Health Department.

“Our rates are higher than West Africa,” Dr Shannon Hader, director of the HIV/AIDS administration of the city Health Department, was quoted as saying by the Washington Post. “They’re on par with Uganda and some parts of Kenya.”

The study found that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is transmitted through every possible mode in the city: Men who have sex with men, heterosexuals, injection drug use and from pregnant mothers to their children.

“Because our epidemic in DC (District of Columbia, as the city is also known) is both large and complex, with every mode of transmission represented, we often say we can’t afford to do just one thing, we have to do it all,” Hader said Monday.

About 3,000 of every 100,000 people older than 12 years, or 15,120 people, are HIV positive in Washington, according to the study. Researchers found a 22-percent increase in HIV/AIDS cases in Washington from 2006. This is data gleaned from the number of people tested; the actual figures of HIV-positive residents might be substantially higher.

“This is very, very depressing news, especially considering HIV’s profound impact on minority communities,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health’s programme for infectious diseases, told the Post.

The study said the increase in HIV prevalence has impacted all racial groups - 4.3 percent of African-Americans, 1.9 percent of Hispanics and 1.4 percent of whites.

According to the CDC, more than 1.1 million Americans are currently living with HIV/AIDS, and every nine and a half minutes someone in the United States is infected with HIV.

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