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Health

D.C. aims to test
virtually all residents for HIV

D.C. aims to test
virtually all residents for HIV

The Washington, D.C., health department on Tuesday will launch an ambitious campaign that aims to test every district resident between the ages of 14 and 84 for HIV antibodies, The Washington Post reports. The campaign, called "Come Together D.C. Get Screened for HIV," is being launched to coincide with the 12th annual National HIV Testing Day.

The D.C. health department will distribute 80,000 free rapid HIV tests at no cost to area hospital emergency departments, doctor's offices, community health programs, detoxification centers, substance abuse centers, and sexually transmitted disease clinics, said Gregg Pane, director of the department. The city is spending about $8 million for the project, which in addition to the rapid HIV tests will also include counseling and medical referrals to those who test positive for HIV infection.

District health officials hope the campaign helps make HIV antibody testing part of routine medical care in the district, which is home to one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the country. About 2% of the district's population--about 10,000 people--are HIV-positive. "If we are serious about addressing this epidemic in our community, then screening for HIV has to become routine," Marsha Martin, director of the district's HIV/AIDS Administration, told the Post.

A report released in August 2005 by the D.C.-based Appleseed Center for Law and Justice said the city's response to the AIDS pandemic has been inadequate, poorly coordinated, and understaffed. The 170-page report, based on data gathered since early 2004, cited four main problems with the city's response to AIDS:

* City officials were not systematically collecting and analyzing data relating to the epidemic;

* The city was not adequately coordinating or supervising the agencies providing HIV care;

* The district was not doing enough to promote HIV prevention;

* The district's HIV services were inadequate for certain demographic groups, such as young people, injection-drug users, and prisoners.

A report card issued by the Appleseed Center six months later found that the district's AIDS efforts remained uneven. The report card gave the district a C for routine HIV antibody testing and a B for rapid HIV antibody testing, but a D for condom distribution and a D+ for substance abuse treatment as well as incomplete grades for HIV data collection and management and surveillance staffing. The report card gave the district a B- for AIDS leadership. (The Advocate)

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