(Washington, DC) – Today, the Gray Administration along with a number of local Union leaders launched a new initiative aimed at encouraging HIV testing and education for District Government employees.
The Department of Health (DOH) recently released its 2010 HIV Annual Report, and while the findings show progress, the District is still experiencing a severe HIV epidemic. The report found that 14,465 residents of the District of Columbia – 2.7 percent of the population – are living with HIV. The 2.7 percent exceeds the World Health Organization definition of 1 percent as a generalized epidemic.
The initiative affords District Government employees two hours of paid leave for HIV awareness and testing. This excused absence will include a one-hour training session to be offered to all District employees over the course of the next three months. Employees will receive information on HIV risks, ease of HIV testing and how to ask for the test from their primary care providers. The initiative will also provide confidential support for those employees who do turn out to be positive.
The excused absence also includes one hour of paid leave to visit their primary care physicians and/or local health clinic to take an HIV test. The program promises to be fully confidential and will only capture data of those who participate in the training sessions.
“The collaboration between city and Union leadership is indicative of the District’s commitment to total wellness within the workforce,” said Dr. Mohammad Akhter, Director DC Department of Health. “This initiative is the first of its kind and will allow us to educate, expand levels of testing and use District Government employees as ambassadors for HIV prevention and encourage their own families and our communities.”
DOH recommends that all sexually active persons take an HIV test at least once per year. In addition, health officials continue to encourage medical providers to include HIV testing among the routine tests offered like blood sugar and cholesterol.