The number of newly diagnosed HIV cases in the District decreased to 282 cases in 2019, a 16 percent decrease from 335 in 2018, according to DC Health’s recently released annual HIV epidemiology & surveillance report presented at Mayor Muriel Bowser’s August 20 situational update.
According to the report, cases have declined by 79 percent since 2007, when 1,374 cases were reported in the District. In addition, the number of newly diagnosed cases attributable to injection drug use decreased by 99 percent since 2007, when DC scaled up its needle exchange program.
DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt said it is “difficult to say definitely” whether COVID-19 is playing a role in the recent downturn in HIV cases in the District. She added that District students can still access sexual health services throughout the pandemic.
Around 12,408 DC residents are living with HIV, and cases disproportionately affect Black and Latinx residents. Nesbitt attributed higher HIV rates among people of color to a multitude of factors, including quality of care, accessibility and cultural competence of care.
“When we talk about why these disparities exist, we have to take a holistic approach,” she said. “Recognize that there are short term things you may be able to do to focus on specific populations, but this is really a long game of having to deal with a host of things that befall communities of color, particularly Black and Latinx populations.”
To end the District’s HIV epidemic, DC Health outlined four goals: ensure 90 percent of HIV positive District residents know their status, guarantee 90 percent of District residents living with HIV are in treatment, certify 90 percent of residents living with HIV who are in treatment reach viral suppression, and achieve a 50 percent reduction in new HIV diagnoses.
To reach these goals during the pandemic, DC Health began distributing free, at-home HIV tests to DC residents in June. To learn more and order a rapid test, which delivers a result in 20 minutes, visit GetCheckedDC.org.
COVID-19: Cases and Resources
As of Aug. 19, D.C. reported one additional death related to COVID-19 and 55 new positive cases, bringing the total numbers to 601 and 13,409 respectively. View detailed COVID-19 data here.
Residents can download DC Access, a new, mobile app, to apply or recertify for cash, food and medical benefits. Learn more at dhs.dc.gov/dcaccess.
Grocery distribution to DC residents will also occur tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. at RFK Stadium, Lot 5. Sponsored by Catholic Charities, the distribution will provide each car with nearly 20 pounds of food, including ready-to-eat meals.
A full list of grocery distribution sites throughout the District open each day of the week is available at coronavirus.dc.gov/food.
Eva Herscowitz is a journalism student at Northwestern University currently interning with the Hill Rag. She writes for Northwestern’s student newspaper, The Daily Northwestern. You can reach her at [email protected]