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01 Mar 2009 | Australasian Dental Practice

news > Spectrum > Page 14

HIV/AIDS epidemic in Washington

The US capital is being ravaged by an epidemic of HIV/AIDS, a new report says. At the end of last year, 3 per cent of all Washington residents over the age of 12 had the HIV virus that causes AIDS or the full-blown disease, a report by the city's department of health said.

To some, 3 per cent of the city's population living with HIV/AIDS may seem like a small number. In comparison, of all Americans, less than one-half of 1 per cent are living with cancer," the report said. It said both the United Nations' HIV/AIDS agency and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had defined an HIV epidemic as "generalised and severe when the overall percentage of disease among residents of a specific geographic area exceeds 1 per cent". "The overall proportion in the District is three times higher," the report said, warning that the true infection rate in the capital was probably even greater because "between one-third and one-half of residents may be unaware of their infection". The rate of infection in Washington was higher than the impoverished African nation of Burkina Faso, where about 1.6 per cent of adults between the ages of 15 and 49 are living with HIV/AIDS, and Ukraine in eastern Europe, which has the same infection rate as Burkina Faso, according to UNAIDS. In Washington, black men and adults aged 40 to 49 were the hardest hit by what the report called "a substantial epidemic", with about 7 per cent of both groups found to be living with HIV, the report said. White and Hispanic women were the only two groups who were below the UN and CDC-defined epidemic levels, with infection rates of 0.2 per cent and 0.7 per cent, respectively. Men having sex with men was the leading mode of transmission of HIV/AIDS in Washington, accounting for nearly four in 10 cases, followed by heterosexual contact and injection drug use with 28 per cent and 18 per cent respectively.

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