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Thanks to the Washington Post‘s preview yesterday of the city’s latest HIV/AIDS numbers, we know know that, with 3 percent of the population diagnosed, D.C.’s rates are “higher than West Africa” and “on par with Uganda and some parts of Kenya.”
Those comparisons came from Dr. Shannon Hader, head of the city’s HIV/AIDS Administration and a former public health officer who did extensive work in Africa. But LL and LL’s boss had the thought: Is this just another example of the District suffering in an apples-to-oranges comparison—-you know, where the District is compared to a state or country encompassing both urban, rural, and suburban areas rather than to its peer cities?
So after today’s press conference on the numbers, LL asked Hader to put the numbers in context of American cities: “Our rates are twice as high as New York City and five times as high as Detroit,” she said, adding she wasn’t aware of a city with a higher infection rate.
Hader added this thought: “What I’m most concerned with is…southern cities are starting to have the same complexity of epidemic that we have, where you have every risk factor contributing. I hope that in a sense we can be a cautionary tale to some of our other southern urban centers who if they don’t take the opportunity to know they’re data and intervene now, they could evolve to matching us, and we don’t want anyone to evolve further.”
Hader and her boss, health director Dr. Pierre Vigilance, both made the point that D.C. in recent years has developed one of the most comprehensive testing regimes in the country. Vigilance, in his slight British accent, pointed to a “surveillance bias,” where “doing a better job of testing people means more people actually get tested and more people get results. And you may find that there are more people with disease than you knew beforehand.”
The unspoken subtext, of course, is that if New York or Detroit or Uganda or Kenya tested as thoroughly and reported their data as thoroughly as the District does, the District might not look so bad.
In any case, the four folks behind the mic at this morning’s presser—-Hader, Vigilance, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, and Councilmember David A. Catania—-urged District residents to get tested regularly for HIV.
So LL asked each of them when their last test was. Said Hader, “I’ve been tested as recently as I access heath care, so i guess I’m a few months behind in my annual checkup.” Vigilance said, “I was tested last year and need to get tested again this year.” Fenty said he’d been tested “within the last year,” and Catania said, “It has been some time,” citing his now seven-year-long committed relationship as reason for his delinquency. (For the record, LL was tested when he had a checkup in fall 2007.)