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Today is World AIDS Day, a global campaign to show solidarity with those affected by HIV that has been around for more than 25 years. In the District, local community center Whitman-Walker Health will host its annual candlelight vigil—scheduled from 6 to 6:45 p.m. at its new facility at 1525 14th St. NW—to commemorate those who have died over the past three decades. A member of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C. will perform at the vigil, and various members of WWH as well as local officials will give remarks.
In D.C., the most recent government data from the Department of Health finds that 2.5 percent of District residents (more than 16,000 individuals) are living with HIV, which surpasses the World Health Organization’s threshold for a “generalized epidemic” (1 percent of population); black residents had the highest rate among racial demographics at 3.9 percent (among black men, the rate was higher, at 5.8 percent), as of Dec. 31, 2o13. Still, the number of newly diagnosed HIV cases in the District dropped 40 percent from 2009 to 2013.
Shawn Jain, a spokesperson for WWH, says the organization has made “great progress” on “encouraging people to know their HIV status,” as well as “expanding access to pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV prevention.” About 350 WWH patients are currently on PrEP, a pill taken daily, he says.
WWH has also worked to help “those who are HIV-positive achieve viral suppression,” which is “especially key since we know it is nearly impossible for those who have achieved viral suppression to transmit the virus to others,” Jain says.
The mayor today signed the HIV Fast-Track Cities Declaration, which officially commits the District to the 90-90-90-50 goals: By 2020, 90 percent of D.C. residents with HIV will know their status, 90 percent of those living with HIV will receive treatment for it, 90 percent of those with HIV will achieve viral load suppression, and the city will experience a 50 percent decline in newly diagnosed HIV cases.
Photo via Trygve.u, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0