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More on the District’s shocking HIV/AIDS numbers and how they affect everybody: Along with its 2008 HIV/AIDS Epidemology Update [PDF], D.C. has released a companion study focusing on HIV among heterosexual couples [PDF] in the District. The study focused on areas of the city with “high poverty rates” that, unsurprisingly, also had a “high AIDS prevalence.” In D.C.’s poorest areas, the HIV/AIDS rate is as high as 5 percent. Half of those who tested positive in the study were previously unaware of their HIV status.

Of the study’s sample group:

* 75 percent reported being in a “committed relationship”
* 70 percent did not use condoms
* 96 percent reporting being exclusively heterosexual
* Almost half were unemployed and impoverished
* Two-thirds had an annual household income of less than $10,000
* More than half had been to jail, prison, or juvenile detention
* Women were more likely to be positive than men

The study cautioned District heterosexuals against the belief that AIDS is spread primarily by homosexual sex acts:

The majority of participants were over the age of 30, black, never been married, and reported a heterosexual orientation. Despite perceptions that HIV is spread in the heterosexual community by men “on the down low” (having sex with men while in relationships with women), this study shows that the overwhelming number of men reported being heterosexual (96%) with less than 4% of men reporting being bisexual. There were hardly any reports of heterosexual men having sex with other men in this study.

If we can learn anything from this report, it’s that HIV in D.C. is not just a “gay disease”—-the group overwhelmingly affected by HIV and AIDS is the poor. Again: No matter what group HIV/AIDS predominantly affects in D.C.—-gay, straight, black, white, rich, poor—-we need to step up our efforts to prevent the spread of the disease and treat those afflicted by it. No matter who you are, stuff like this has a way of getting around.

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