HIV-AIDS Rate in D.C. 'Higher Than West Africa'

At least 3 percent of residents in the nation's capital are living with HIV or AIDS and every mode of transmission is on the rise, according to a report to be released Monday by D.C. health officials.

The findings in the 2008 epidemiology report by the D.C. HIV/AIDS Administration point to a severe epidemic that's impacting every race and sex across the population and neighborhoods.

"Our rates are higher than West Africa," said Shannon Hader, the administration's director, who used to spearhead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's work in Zimbabwe. "They're on par with Uganda and some parts of Kenya."

The report, obtained by The Washington Post, updates a landmark 2007 study that discovered the epidemic had moved from affecting a mostly gay population to a general one, and that it disproportionately affected blacks.

The study found that the number of HIV and AIDS cases jumped 22 percent from the 12,428 reported in 2006. Almost 1 in 10 residents between 40 and 49 are living with the virus, and black men had the highest infection rate at almost 7 percent, the report said. It added that 3 percent of black women in D.C. have HIV.

The virus was most often transmitted by men having sex with men, followed by heterosexual transmission and injection drug use, the report said.

"This is very, very depressing news, especially considering HIV's profound impact on minority communities," said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health's program on infectious diseases. "And remember: The city's numbers are just based on people who've gotten tested."

The epidemiology report warns that the true number of D.C. residents infected with HIV "is certainly higher."

Meanwhile, another study scheduled to be released Monday by city health officials looks at heterosexual sexual behavior, and attempts to dissect people's choices before they are tested for or become infected with HIV. It was conducted by the George Washington University School of Health and Health Services with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study found that three in five D.C. residents who had connections in neighborhoods with high poverty and AIDS rates were aware of their HIV status and that three in 10 had used a condom the last time they had sex, among other findings.