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HIV Study Shows Washington Suburbs Need Cohesive Prevention Plan

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By Kavitha Cardoza

Most of the discussion and research on rate of HIV and AIDS in the Washington area is focused on the District. But some health advocates say the disease is also a major public health problem in surrounding suburbs.

A new study commissioned by the Washington AIDS Partnership finds almost half the area residents infected with HIV/AIDS live in the suburbs around D.C. But care from one area to another can vary widely.

The report says prevention and testing efforts are underfunded and health departments conduct very little outreach to find people in need of care.

The Partnership's executive director, Channing Wickham, says in addition, school based HIV prevention education is "inconsistent and often timid." He says both in Maryland and Virginia small groups of parents opposed to sex education have left many gaps in the curriculum and even the approved information is not consistently taught.

Wickham says local governments have to start talking to each other.

"Our biggest single recommendation is communication and collaboration," says Wickham.

Wickham says jurisdictions also need to do a better job of getting out information on testing and developing regional prevention programs.

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