Mayor Promises Strong Effort, Plans to Pick New Agency Chief
By Susan Levine
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 5, 2007; B04
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty pledged yesterday to "put an end to this crisis" that is HIV-AIDS in the District, but he did not commit to declaring a state of emergency based on the city's levels of infection.
Fenty (D) held to his action plan for his first 100 days, which included yesterday's summit on the disease, attended by more than 150 health experts, community service providers and activists.
"This is day 92," he said to laughter from the group. Within a week, he said, the city agencies involved in various aspects of the epidemic will be charged with working together as never before. And soon, Fenty said, he expects to select a new director of the city's HIV-AIDS agency.
"This is the number one [public health] priority of this government," Fenty said.
The mayor's promise of momentum follows a year of ups and downs for the agency, which leads the city's response. It launched a testing campaign last summer, drawing national attention with its goal to encourage all District residents between 14 and 84 to find out their HIV status.
That campaign can claim some accomplishments. About 48,000 people were screened in 2006, the most in a single year and a 75 percent increase over 2005, D.C. Health Department Director Gregg A. Pane said yesterday. Half of the people were tested in private medical settings and more than a third in clinics or hospitals. Men and women in their mid-30s to mid-40s were the most likely to be tested; the least likely were older teens and young adults.
But the campaign fell short of reaching the several hundred thousand residents in its target population. Moreover, Pane said, the data collected at the test sites were not complete enough to provide the demographic breakdowns needed for the best prevention and treatment planning.
Officials are evaluating the numbers to discern how many new positive cases were identified among city residents not screened in more skewed settings such as the jail.
The city estimates that 17,000 to 23,000 people in the District have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, although years of surveillance shortfalls mean that data-driven calculations are unavailable. Between 2001 and 2006, Pane said, 5,179 new AIDS cases were reported locally.