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HIV In D.C. A Modern Day Black Epidemic

December 12, 2007


From the Washington Post:

"The first statistics ever amassed on HIV in the District, released
today in a sweeping report, reveal "a modern epidemic" remarkable for
its size, complexity and reach into all parts of the city.

The numbers most starkly illustrate HIV’s impact on the African
American community. More than 80 percent of the 3,269 HIV cases
identified between 2001 and 2006 were among black men, women and
adolescents. Among women who tested positive, a rising percentage of
local cases, nine of 10 were African American."

As a native to Washington, D.C., and resident of its suburbs, this study stuns me.  The numbers do not stun me.  It has been known for quite some time among D.C.’s advocacy groups, that HIV has been a problem in the city.  What stuns me is the fact that given the level of advocate energy placed on the health concerns of this city; that this is the "first statistics ever amassed on HIV in the District" is astounding! It speaks of either an ineptitude of governance, or a blatant disregard for the predominantly black citizenry of D.C.

"The numbers most starkly illustrate HIV’s impact on the African
American community. More than 80 percent of the 3,269 HIV cases
identified between 2001 and 2006 were among black men, women and

The Washington Post in a overtly politically correct way has dubbed this crisis, rather generically, as a
"Modern Day Epidemic".  It is definitely epidemic, but let’s be specific here, the numbers detail an HIV epidemic that is overwhelmingly effecting the African American residents of the nations capital. This is why I think it is more rightly detailed as a Modern Day Black Epidemic. All that said, there are some realities that need to be talked about.

  1. The Nation’s capitol city has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS of any major metropolis.
  2. 80.7% of the new cases of infection since 2006 are in Black D.C.

The fact that the capitol city of the United States has this level of HIV/AIDS infections is amazing.  What are we not doing?  Are their adequate levels of HIV education being offered?  Are condoms and other prevention methods being utilized to the degree they should? Are parents broaching the subject of sex with their children at ages that it can make a difference?  I don’t know. But if we speculate (and I do) that these things aren’t happening. What are the ramifications for those most effected? I’m talking about those African American boys and girls most at risk of exposure to infection. The ramifications are lives plagued with suspicion and shun. 

Let’s be honest, 80% is a high, HIGH number.  I shiver for my children, and honestly have had to take into account these numbers when discussing the effects that sexual activity could have on their lives. Because of this I have picked up on a feeling from my eldest, a feeling of trepidation when it comes to dealing with children who are residents of the city.  I hear it in his voice, and his questions. I hear it when he counts 10 people and the shock hits that it’s possible 8 of them could be infected with HIV and not know it.

"the data made public today expose an alarming dimension of pediatric
HIV. Each of the three dozen District children to test positive in the
past five years was infected during birth."

I agree with Washington D.C.’s Mayor Adrian Fenty:

A letter from Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) accompanies the release: "We must take advantage of this information with the sense of urgency that this epidemic deserves."

Urgency is required.

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