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A report released this week by the District of Columbia-based Appleseed Center says that although Washington, D.C., has the highest HIV prevalence rate of any U.S. metropolitan area, the city's response to the disease has been inadequate, poorly coordinated, and understaffed, The Washington Post reports. The 170-page report, based on data gathered since early 2004, cites four main problems with the city's response to AIDS:
- City officials are not systematically collecting and analyzing data relating to the epidemic;
- The city is not adequately coordinating or supervising the agencies providing HIV care;
- The District is not doing enough to promote HIV prevention;
- And the city's HIV services are inadequate for certain demographic groups, such as young people, injection-drug users, and prisoners.
The report urges city government and health officials to begin working together more closely to improve HIV surveillance, funding levels, prevention outreach, and treatment programs. It also includes dozens of other recommendations, including establishing an executive-level commission that focuses on fighting HIV in the district, developing a centralized application process for enrollment in publicly funded AIDS programs, encouraging all health care providers in the district to recommend HIV antibody testing to their patients, and expand condom distribution programs.
"Addressing the epidemic must move front and center as a priority of district government," the report says.
D.C. mayor Anthony Williams says he agrees with the report's findings and recommendations and announced he plans to create and lead a city task force to improve the city's HIV prevention, treatment, and support services. District health director Gregg Pane told reporters the health department is already working on implementing some of the report's recommendations.