At the D.C. gay pride festival this past weekend, I heard a lot of anti-Fenty rhetoric regarding the mayor’s supposed lack of attention to the HIV/AIDS crisis. Having been a D.C. resident for only a week or so, I’ll defer to others on Fenty’s performance, though there is some evidence that he has on at least one occasion inappropriately used the issue as a bargaining chip in his battles with the City Council. But Fenty has dealt with some of the most severe failings of the District’s AIDS Office since his term began and called HIV/AIDS one of “most serious problems” facing the city. And he’s right.
At least 3% of D.C. residents have HIV or AIDS, and officials believe that figure significantly underestimates the true number of those affected, as the estimate is based only on those who have been tested. For purposes of comparison, the CDC characterizes a population with a 1% incidence of HIV as experiencing a “generalized and severe” epidemic, and Shannon L. Hader, director of the District’s HIV/AIDS Administration, notes that the District’s HIV rate is “on par with Uganda.” The most recent data shows HIV/AIDS is on the rise throughout the U.S., but the District has the highest AIDS case rate in the country and new AIDS diagnoses are twice as high in D.C. than in New York and five times higher than Detroit.