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article imageAIDS Epidemic in D.C. Called a ‘Hurricane Katrina’ Disaster

By Carol Forsloff     Jun 8, 2009 in Health
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation declares AIDS is Washington’s D.C.’s Hurricane Katrina. If that’s true, all eyes will be on the gathering storm, as discussions about health care begin in anticipation of Obama’s healthcare program.
Social Security, Medicare and healthcare in general have been big issues for many years. Hillary Clinton tried to revise the healthcare system and failed. President George Bush Jr. tried to revise Social Security and failed. At the same time AIDS is a growing problem in the nation’s capital, when the country is in recession; and there are choices to be made about the allocation of healthcare resources and funds.
The AIDs foundation points out the rate of HIV is past 3% and now higher than the rate found in Lagos, Nigeria. The foundation believes this problem needs Obama’s critical attention and his need to act forcefully on the matter of AIDS. Just as Hurricane Katrina came to symbolize the Bush Administration’s indifference toward the vulnerable in New Orleans, 56,000 new HIV infections in the U.S., which represents a 40% increase in the last year, the foundation declares the problem of AIDS must be viewed in the same way—as a catastrophe affecting many of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens.
The Center For Disease Control estimates 1.1 million adults and adolescents are now living with HIV diagnosis in the United States at the end of 2006. Nearly half were men who have sex with men. Furthermore the majority of victims are non white with prevalence 7.6 times the rate for blacks and 2.6 times the rate for Hispanics when compared compared with whites. This reflects the kind of data the AIDS foundation maintains reflects the most vulnerable of the population, given the fact that a total of 65% of AIDS victims are the poor and nonwhite.
Four years ago Dr. Philippe Chiliade, Medical Director for Whitman-Walker Clinic, related his concerns about Washington D.C.’s high rate of AIDS. He was also the Director of the HIV Program and Attending Physician for the South Texas Veterans Health Care System. Chiliade is board certified in both infectious diseases and internal medicine. He strongly condemned the lack of serious focus on a major epidemic in the nation’s capital and the response that at the time was seen as badly understaffed and poorly organized. At-risk groups and youths were particularly seen as vulnerable. He observed then Washington D.C.’s rate of HIV/AIDS as possibly the worst of any major city in the country.
Every year the media reports the catastrophe of AIDS and Washington D.C. as the central city in focusing the country’s attention on a serious epidemic. Time magazine had extensive coverage in March of this year, entitling their report, HIV/AIDS: A Surging Epidemic.
So what does the AIDS Foundation say needs to be done? These are some of the recommendations that include getting a better handle on the number of persons actually living with HIV/AIDS because many people infected with the virus haven’t been diagnosed or haven’t reported to programs involved in assessing the rate of disease and providing intervention. Education at all levels is important to fight the epidemic, that the Foundation declares may truly be the catastrophe like Hurricane Katrina with the same result with an aftermath of bad feelings and lives lost.
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