Ending HIV/AIDS in the District of Columbia

This morning, DC Appleseed was joined by Mayor Vince Gray and senior Department of Health officials as we released our Ninth Report Card on HIV/AIDS in the Nation’s Capital.

At the release, we celebrated the great progress the District has made since our 2005 report, HIV/AIDS in the Nation’s Capital: Improving the District of Columbia’s Response to a Public Health Crisis. Over the past year, we have seen concerted efforts to improve in Leadership, Grants Management, Surveillance, and Monitoring & Evaluation–important areas of concern in last year’s report card.

We have always been pleased with the D.C. government’s responsiveness to our recommendations. This year, D.C.’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration (HAHSTA) included incidence-of-new-infections data in its Epidemiology Report for the first time, and promised to release data more frequently. We have called for this in past report cards, as current and accurate data are so essential for the government and community to better understand and respond to trends in the epidemic.

At the Report Card release today, HAHSTA shared preliminary 2013 data and the availability of their first Interim HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report. This is just one example of the impact our advocacy has made over the years. It is a testament to the collaborative nature of our report card that D.C. leaders attend our releases and say they take DC Appleseed’s grades seriously and work to improve them year to year.

In addition to celebrating the great progress that has been made in the District, this morning we brought focus to two areas of ongoing and growing concern:

  • HIV education in our public schools is still not what it should be–four years after the passage the Healthy Schools Act. While D.C. Public Schools have made substantial progress in HIV education and engagement of students and staff, charter schools and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education appear to fall short of their responsibilities to D.C. youth. More transparency and accountability is very much needed.
  • Unstable housing is a major issue for people living with HIV/AIDS, particularly those with low income. Stable housing is essential to efforts to prevent new infections and ensure HIV-positive residents can maintain treatment. HAHSTA is developing a plan to address systemic issues, including challenges within federal housing programs, but decisive action must be taken at all levels of District government.

These concerns underscore that the District is at a critical juncture regarding HIV/AIDS. Progress has been made, but systemic attention is still needed and the government must be proactive to keep intact the systems and partnerships that are responsible for the District’s great strides in recent years.

To help the city move forward on this important issue, I wanted to let you know that this morning’s release was a milestone for us. Not only did we mark a decade of monitoring the District’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but we also announced a bold new direction for our work on this issue. We’re pleased to undertake a new initiative with the D.C. government, community partners, and the Washington AIDS Partnership to take our efforts to a higher level and develop a plan to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the District of Columbia. We hope to work closely with the Bowser administration and our community partners in developing this plan.

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