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D.C. Uses Viral Loads To Measure HIV-AIDS Progress

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Washington D.C. is one of few cities in the nation that receives viral loads from health clinics. New cases of HIV/AIDS are down by half over the last two years.
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Washington D.C. is one of few cities in the nation that receives viral loads from health clinics. New cases of HIV/AIDS are down by half over the last two years.

As the District tackles the HIV-AIDS epidemic, the city is using new ways to gauge its progress against the disease. Measuring the viral load -- that is the amount of HIV in a person’s blood -- has become an important tool, both for individuals managing the virus and for cities like D.C. that track viral loads on a community level.

For individuals, a low or even undetectable viral load is often achieved through effective use of anti-retroviral drugs. Having a low viral load not only signals a healthier immune system, but doctors say it may also reduce the risk of transmission. That’s one reason why public health officials in D.C. are now tracking what’s called “community viral loads”:

D.C. is one of the few cities in the United States that receives viral load information from health clinics. City health officials use that data to see if there are any disparities in care among at-risk groups.

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