Building Stronger Communities - One Project at a Time
"What we have is all the risk factors – we have a cocktail for HIV right here east of the river. So what we try to do is design programs to first address the socio-economic need."
A. Toni Young
DC has the highest rate of HIV in the country, with at least 1 in 20 individuals testing positive for the virus.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, most people assume that HIV/AIDS only affects gays, drug users or the young and reckless. In the District, where the rate of new infections due to heterosexual contact is outpacing any other means of transmission, these myths carry a death sentence.
By the numbers:
37.4% of new cases are through heterosexual contact, followed by 25.8% through MSM.1
The majority of new cases are through heterosexual sex.
90.7% of new heterosexual cases are black (58.8% are women, 41.2% are men).2
The black community in DC is overwhelmingly affected by this crisis – especially black women.
63% of newly diagnosed heterosexual cases are 30-49 years old.3
Everyone needs to know the risks and use protection.
Looking at the numbers of all those diagnosed, a more telling picture emerges.
While the majority of HIV/AIDS positive people living throughout the district are homosexual men (4,692 men 57.7% of whom are black) – the next highest demographic group are heterosexual women with 2,102 individuals 92.4% of whom are black.4
While the HIV/AIDS epidemic has impacted homosexual men the longest, heterosexuals – mostly black - are quickly making up the difference, with women leading the way.
So, what can these numbers teach us?
This crisis isn’t about sexual orientation - it’s about education.
Fighting the myth that ‘it couldn’t be me’ and giving people, particularly in our community of SE DC, the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of practicing safe sex is vital. Additionally, there must be a racial and gendered component to any approach - this means working directly in communities and tackling historically challenging issues, like women’s power over their sexual relationships.
Each new diagnosis means a life cut short – fighting this epidemic won’t be easy, but every prevented case is worth it.
This is why we at CEG work so hard to do mobile outreach and link people to care, and why we advocate for more attention on South East DC, specifically the neighborhoods East of the River.
In a report from the last International AIDS Conference in Vienna, the tragedy of low income communities, specifically low income Black communities like ours, was highlighted (read more here). Among African Americans, the study found, HIV rates are nearly 8 times higher than among whites.
With the next International Conference here in DC, we hope that these reports and others will look to programs like ours to find solutions that work. For more information on our programs and how we are effectively combating this epidemic in our community, click here.
1 District of Columbia Department of Health HIV/AIDS Administration. (2008). District of Columbia HIV/AIDS Epidemiology Update 2008. Washington