WASHINGTON, DC— Today, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Department of Health (DOH) Officials, released MSM in DC: A Life Long Commitment to Stay HIV Free. The report, the second in a series of sexual behavior studies on HIV, is part of the District’s overall effort to enhance data collection and analysis in an effort to provide effective public health programming for all health issues facing DC residents. The Mayor also announced a new public-private partnership to increase HIV/STD testing and treatment.
“Knowing the facts about our HIV/AIDS epidemic improves how we fight this disease. We’ve already shown that we can make progress against HIV by reducing AIDS cases and deaths and increasing people getting into medical care,” said Mayor Fenty. “This study shows that we have more work to do fight HIV/AIDS among men who have sex with men.”
MSM in DC: A Life Long Commitment to Stay HIV Free
The new report is the first-ever study conducted to assess the behavioral risks of HIV among men who have sex with men in the District of Columbia. It shows a very high rate of HIV/AIDS at 14% of men who have sex with men in the study testing positive – a rate five times higher than that of the entire city’s adults and adolescents.
Based on these high rates, the Department of Health has updated its guidelines for DC men who have sex with men, recommending they get tested twice a year for HIV.
“Today’s study clearly demonstrates how HIV/AIDS continues to impact men who have sex with men, and also highlights the importance of clearly discussing HIV/AIDS status with your relationship partner,” said Dr. Pierre Vigilance, Director of the Department of Health. “The data reinforces the message of our Know Where You Stand campaign, people should not assume the HIV/AIDS status of their partner, the only way to know your status is to get tested for HIV/AIDS.”
The study examined younger and older men and men of color and white men and found significant differences among the groups. Younger men generally had safer sex behaviors while older men got tested less and used condoms less. Though white men were more likely to engage in higher risk behavior, more men of color were impacted with HIV. Here are some of the results:
Though these are significantly high numbers, other cities show more severe impacts for men who have sex with men. In a 2005 study of five cities – Baltimore, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco – an average of 25% of men tested positive, nearly twice the District’s rate. Baltimore’s rate is the highest at 40%. Also, 64% of men reported having been tested in the past year, while the District was at 75%.
New Partnership to Increase HIV Testing
The Department of Health also announced that it is launching a new public-private partnership project with Whitman-Walker Clinic and the Crew Club with funding from Gilead Sciences, Inc. The year-long project will screen approximately 500 high-risk men at the Crew Club and provide treatment to approximately 100 men. The $50,000 project will be supported by $40,000 from Gilead and over $5,000 from the Crew Club. DOH will provide the remaining amount through in-kind support.
This campaign will complement DOH’s other efforts underway to reduce the burden of HIV among men who have sex with men. The Department has made it easier to find free condoms at locations across the city, including through the Internet and text messaging. DOH also supports community partners, such as the DC Center HIV Working Group to distribute condoms. The Department will be building on its “Ask for the Test” advertising program with new ads for men to get tested twice a year. DOH is now preparing a new strategic plan which will have goals and action steps to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on men who have sex with men. The plan is expected to be completed by the summer.
To read this document in its entirety, select MSM in DC: A Life Long Commitment to stay HIV Free