Image: Posters from a French AIDS awareness campaign. The CDC reports today that three percent of residents of Washington, D.C., have HIV-AIDS, a rate higher than Western Africa and equivalent to Uganda and parts of Kenya.
The generation gap widens like the fault line in the “Big One” when California goes seaward and now the mood seems spoiled.
Only 21, the young woman seems willing and unafraid. I met her four hours ago.
“What, do you have AIDS or something?” she asks, frowning as I unwrap a condom.
As many of us recall Ryan White amid the dawn of the age of HIV-AIDS, some in the younger generation see a reawakening of the sexual revolution interrupted briefly during the 1980s and ‘90s—before their time. Indeed, researchers in Berlin said in November that they’d apparently cured at least one patient, though that particular stem cell treatment remains wildly impractical for even insured patients in the developed world, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. As we approach an era of personalized medicine with individually sequenced genomes, researchers every week glean increasingly more knowledge about penetrating the cellular world.
But as the AIDS epidemic stabilizes for the rest of the developed world and new infections fall short of predictions in China and Russia, the District of Columbia faces an absolute pandemic with three percent of the population carrying the HIV virus. Health officials say that at least 15,120 residents carry the infection, though many remain unaware.
“Our rates are higher than West Africa,” says Shannon Hader, director of the District’s HIV/AIDS Administration, who once led CDC work in Zimbabwe. “They’re on par with Uganda and some parts of Kenya.”
Though the District receives direct federal funding (including $95 million in fiscal-year 2009) to fight the pandemic, David Catania (Independent, At-Large), chairman of the D.C. Council’s health committee, told the Washington Post that previous mayors (and crackheads) had until a few years ago not considered deadly infectious disease to be a priority for the city.
"Frankly, there can be no excuse for the state of the HIV/AIDS Administration that I found in 2005," Catania says. "I cannot speak to why it was not a priority previously. For years prior to 2005, mayors and previous individuals allowed things to exist in an unacceptable way--and I do blame this government for part of the epidemic we're confronting."
Some of you may ask, "How is this relevant to us?" Apropos of what, M@? Well, I’m just saying: Sleeping with any random resident of the District is akin to sleeping with any “random” in Uganda and some parts of Kenya. Just saying. Three percent of y’all have HIV. And, actually, you don’t know who you are.
Posted by M@ at 7:47 PM