A study released recently by the Department of Health of the District of Columbia revealed that the HIV infection rate for heterosexual African-American women in the poorest neighborhoods in D.C. have almost doubled in two years.
The HIV infection rate for these women have increased to 12.1 percent from 6.3 percent, a rise that officials are attributing to a wider testing of people who were previously unaware of their HIV status.
The release of the results of the study was accompanied by new recommendations for doctors as well as other health-care providers to immediately start treatment for people who have been newly-diagnosed with HIV, as opposed to waiting for evidence of severe damage to the immune system.
The Health Department also released the annual update on HIV/AIDS, which indicated a drop in the total number of new AIDS cases over the past four years, as well as improvements in getting infected people into care quickly. The latter was cited by Mayor Vincent C. Gray as among the city’s many achievements.
While the at-risk populations in other cities are concentrated among intravenous drug users as well as sexually active gay men, Washington was found to have a “mixed epidemic,” with a “huge burden” falling on heterosexual African Americans; according to officials, 90 percent of all women with HIV are black.
Michael Rhein, senior vice president at the Institute for Public Health Innovation, a nonprofit group that coordinates several regional programs supporting people with HIV/AIDS, shared: “While recognizing the limitations of a sample-based study, it seems the HIV epidemic among heterosexuals may be more significant than the previous study estimated.”