(WASHINGTON, DC) — Today, in observance of World AIDS Day, Mayor Bowser and DC Health provide a few preliminary highlights on DC’s progress toward ending the HIV epidemic in Washington, DC. DC Health continues to see progress in the District’s efforts to end the epidemic in DC. Cases are declining, especially among the most vulnerable populations. The number of newly diagnosed HIV cases attributable to injection drug use decreased by 99% since 2007, and no babies were born with HIV in 2020.
“The pandemic did not stop DC Health’s focus on improving the care continuum for those living with HIV,” said Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, DC Health Director. “District residents knowing their status, linking people with HIV to prevention and treatment services, and the use of biomedical interventions such as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and antiretroviral therapy (ART) remain critical to preventing the ongoing spread of HIV.”
The care continuum measures the number of people linked to care, engaged in treatment, and achieving viral load suppression. HIV positive persons reaching viral suppression attain better health outcomes and cannot transmit HIV to other people, known as Undetectable equals Untransmittable, or U=U.
While the pandemic has impacted community health and healthcare services in numerous areas, DC Health remains committed to innovative approaches to HIV prevention and treatment. Promising and evidence-based strategies in the District’s post-pandemic recovery include:
- Targeted expansion of GetChecked DC to support at-home HIV and STD testing and walk-in testing at LabCorp sites across the city
- Support of a status-neutral approach that helps better integrate HIV treatment and prevention services
- Linkage to PrEP and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)
- Continued implementation of risk reduction strategies including syringe services programs and condom distribution with a focus on hard to reach populations
- Ongoing community engagement and partnerships
DC Health has identified new strategic leadership for the agency’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration (HAHSTA). This month, Clover Barnes, will serve as the new Senior Deputy Director for HAHSTA. “I am very excited to take on this new role and proud to continue to serve District residents,” said Clover Barnes. “I am committed to our work to end the HIV epidemic in the District, and I look forward to engaging with the community, cultivating new partnerships, and sustaining existing relationships.” A nurse for 20 years, Ms. Barnes has worked in public health for the past 7 years serving as HAHSTA’s Bureau Chief for the Care and Treatment Division where she provided leadership and administrative oversight of the Ryan White Program and DC Health’s Ending the HIV Epidemic Initiatives.