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D.C. Sees Decrease In New HIV Cases

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The number of new cases of HIV in the District continues to decline, though many cases still go unreported.
Ashley Dejean
The number of new cases of HIV in the District continues to decline, though many cases still go unreported.

The latest information from D.C.'s Department of Health shows a slight decrease in the number of new HIV cases from 2009 to 2010, although the rate increased among one group sampled: poor, heterosexual women. 

The HIV/AIDS rate increased from 6 to 12 percent among lower-income heterosexual women; an increase health officials attribute to their efforts to get more people tested for the disease so they know their HIV status. 

But the 835 new cases of HIV contracted last year are "still 835 too many," says D.C. Department of Health Chief Dr. Mohammad Akhter. "Every day, two or three people get infected in the city."

Akhter says by the end of this year the District will have a "Medical Homes Program" in place.

"It means just like the home," he says. "If you don't show up, someone calls, 'honey where are you?' If you don't show up for your appointment, someone calls, because somebody cares. In addition to that, care is coordinated."

One barrier to patients continuing treatment is when residents have to go to different doctors and venues for complicated health needs, says Akhter. The Medical Homes Program is meant to keep tabs on that, and won't cost any additional money.

Currently, 2.7 percent of District residents are living with HIV. That's approximately 14,500 people. D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray attributes the decrease in new HIV cases to a needle exchange program and condom distribution. Last year 5 million condoms were distributed in the District of Columbia.

Gray says that's a tenfold increase from 2007. Since then the Department of Health has also tripled the number of HIV tests. Estimates say that between 20 to 40 percent of HIV infected people in the District are unaware of their diagnosis.

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