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D.C.’s HIV
caseload is 10 times national average

D.C.’s HIV
caseload is 10 times national average

Large gay and African-American populations play a role in D.C.'s high HIV rate

The HIV caseload in Washington, D.C., is 10 times the national average, with 5% of district residents infected with HIV and 2% having been diagnosed with AIDS, National Public Radio reports. Cornelius Baker, former executive director of D.C.'s Whitman-Walker Clinic, says several factors are leading to the high HIV level in the district, including its large population of African-Americans, a group hit hard by HIV across the country. The district also has a large gay population, another group disproportionately affected by the disease, says Baker, adding that a poor health care infrastructure and high rates of drug addiction also are fueling the D.C. epidemic.

Marsha Martin, who was named senior deputy director of the district's HIV/AIDS Administration in September 2005, is working to curb HIV's spread in D.C. But she says the agency's efforts are hampered by a drop in public and private funding as HIV has fallen "off the radar screen" in the district. She says that D.C. doesn't currently have an HIV public awareness campaign but that a task force headed by the mayor's office is currently being assembled to help launch HIV outreach efforts in the city.

Martin also says she would like to make condoms available in all public places that serve alcohol, expand the city's needle-exchange program, require HIV antibody testing for all prisoners in the city, and make HIV antibody testing more widely available through doctors' offices and hospital emergency rooms. (

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