It only takes a one percent infection rate for a disease to be considered a “generalized and severe” epidemic. Washington, D.C.’s HIV/AIDS rate is now three times as severe as “severe”: The Washington Post reported yesterday that “at least 3 percent of District residents have HIV or AIDS.”

The District’s HIV/AIDS Administration estimates the number of known infected D.C. residents at 15,120, a figure which brings D.C. to a rate “higher than West Africa.” HIV/AIDS cases have increased 22 percent in the District since numbers were last released in 2006.

The true number of infected residents is probably substantially higher than that. The numbers only reflect those residents who have been tested for HIV, and the study reports that only three out of five people in D.C. are aware of their HIV status.

Increased testing may be partly responsible for the heightened numbers. Reports the Post: “More people are getting HIV diagnoses early, while they are still healthy, as a result of a policy of routine testing implemented by the city in mid-2006.” Since then, “Publicly supported HIV testing expanded by 70 percent.”

I’ll have more on the numbers when the D.C. Department of Health releases its reports today.