DC has made significant progress in the fight against HIV, but a number of challenges remain, according to experts and a new report.
With so much attention on COVID-19, it’s easy to forget that we’re still dealing with other outbreaks. Residents of the district are still infected with HIV, and some are not taking medications that can prevent the spread of the virus that causes AIDS.
The pandemic is partly to blame and has slowed the district’s efforts to end the HIV epidemic by preventing some people from getting tested or seeking treatment.
“DC has really turned the corner on HIV, but that doesn’t mean it’s over. We still have a lot of work to do,” said Carl Schmid, executive director of the district-based HIV+ Hepatitis Policy Institute.
HIV cases have fallen dramatically in DC since their peak in 2007. But nearly 1 in 5 new infections have occurred among people between the ages of 13 and 24, according to a new report from DC Health. Many of these young people were not taking drugs that can help the virus spread to others.
Treatments are easier than before.
“Now we have long-acting injectables. Instead of taking a pill every day, you might get an injection once every two months,” Schmid explained.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis, also called PrEP, is a drug that can be used for the treatment and prevention of HIV. Experts say it is essential to end the epidemic and help infected people lead healthy lives.
It all starts with education, Schmid said.
“It’s important for religious organisations, community groups, campaigns on buses and in classrooms as well, to talk about sex, sex education, so that people can take action to protect themselves “, did he declare.
Nearly 2% of DC residents are living with HIV. Black and Latino residents face higher infection rates. Nationally, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 150,000 Americans are HIV-positive but don’t know it because they haven’t been tested.
The stigma still linked to the virus also prevents some people from seeking treatment.
Here’s how to get HIV prevention drugs in the DC area
Go here to learn more about how to get pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in the DC area, even if you don’t have insurance.
Go here to dive into DC Health’s latest report on the local fight against HIV.