August 13, 2012
Government, researchers, and the District of Columbia community pulled together to make progress in the area's HIV/AIDS fight, according to an 11-member panel discussion among stakeholders during the 19th International AIDS Conference (IAC) in Washington.
Nearly 3 percent of District residents have HIV, but annual HIV/AIDS mortality figures have declined by almost half, from 399 in 2006 to 207 in 2010. New HIV diagnoses in 2010 dropped 24 percent compared with 2006. Panel members cited drastic improvements in testing, prevention, and ongoing observation of HIV-positive people, and they noted plans to continue community partnerships and conduct more research.
A turning point came in 2007, when the District and National Institutes of Health partnered on studies of people living with HIV, said A. Toni Young, executive director of the Community Education Group.
The District has since gained recognition for its academic community's role in AIDS research, with 61 research abstracts presented at IAC, said Dr. Gregory Pappas, director of D.C.'s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration.
Community-based organizations can use the office's data on HIV testing, prevention, and demographics, Young said. For instance, the D.C. Center for AIDS Research and the District Department of Health conducted part of a national HIV behavioral surveillance survey of high-risk groups. That data helped almost triple the amount of research grants awarded from NIH, from eight in 2008 to 22 this year, panelists said. However, CBOs need more health department direction on using the data, added Katitia Pitts, executive director of Calvary Healthcare.
Identifying gaps in care is the aim of an expected 12-clinic study of 3,300 city patients with HIV, said Dr. Andrea Castel. It also will collect information about HIV risks, treatments, diagnoses, and lab results, she said.