Global AIDS Epidemic Hits Home In Washington D.C.

There are 33.2 million people in the world currently infected with HIV, and 2007 saw 2.5 million new infections. But as Matt Foreman, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, notes: “Here in the United States, the attitude of so many within our own community is that there’s not a lot more to be done.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) states, “Recently reported increases in both new HIV infections and new AIDS cases in the United States call out for stronger leadership domestically as well.” Right outside the U.S. Capitol, a “modern epidemic” is raging.

City health officials report that Washington, D.C. has the highest rate of AIDS infection in the country, with HIV continuing to be transmitted at an epidemic pace. Some startling statistics:

— “One in 20 city residents is thought to have HIV and 1 in 50 residents to have AIDS.”  — “At the end of 2006, there were 8,368 reported cases of people living with AIDS in the District, a 43% increase from 2001.”  — “The number of women living with AIDS has increased by more than 76% over the past six years.”  — Black residents, which represent 57 percent of the city’s population of 500,000 or so, “account for 81 percent of new reports of H.I.V. cases and about 86 percent of people with AIDS.”

To mark tomorrow’s World AIDS Day, President Bush delivered a speech highlighting the important role of faith- and community-based organizations in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. His reliance on faith-based organizations in the past, however, has meant that “a full two-thirds of the money for the prevention of the sexual spread of HIV” goes to abstinence-only programs, which have failed to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

GlobalHealthFacts provides a map of the people living with HIV or AIDS across the globe: