D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser released the city’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Disease and Tuberculosis Administration annual report and highlighted the District’s progress toward ending its HIV epidemic.
LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the D.C. Department of Health, and Don Blanchon, executive director of Whitman-Walker Health in Northwest, joined Bowser at the release of the report at the Whitman Walker Clinic on Tuesday, June 27. The release took place on National HIV Testing Day.
The report showed that D.C. has seen a 52 percent decrease in new HIV cases since 2011.
“For nine consecutive years, the District has been able to work together with the community to decrease the number of new HIV cases,” Bowser said. “We know we have more work to do, but this data is good news for our city and our residents.
“In just one decade, we have made tremendous progress, and today, our residents who are diagnosed with HIV are getting care faster and they are starting — and staying on — treatments that we know are effective,” she said.
The District saw 347 new HIV cases in 2016, a continuation of a progressive decline from 2011’s 720 cases.
In December, Bowser released the 90/90/90/50 plan, D.C.’s plan to end the HIV epidemic in the city by 2020.
The core goals of the plan are that 90 percent of D.C. residents with HIV know their status; 90 percent of residents diagnosed with HIV get treatment; 90 percent of residents in treatment achieve viral load suppression, which means the virus is undetectable in their bodies, and that the city sees and overall 50 percent decrease in new HIV cases.
Bowser also joined a worldwide online effort launched in 2016, “Undetectable Equals Untransmittable” (U equals U) led by the United States-based Prevention Access Campaign.
The D.C. Department of Health is the second health department to endorse the campaign, and Bowser is the first mayor.
U equals U is an evidence-based confirmation that the risk HIV transmission from a person living with HIV, who is on Antiretroviral Therapy and has achieved an undetectable viral load in their blood for at least six months is slight to nonexistent.
The evidence to support U equals U comes from a National Institute of Health-funded study known as HPTN 052 that examined participants at 13 sites in nine countries. The results of the study showed that while HIV is not always transmitted even with a detectable viral load, when a partner has an undetectable viral load their own health with be protected and new cases of HIV infections become prevented. Basically, people living with HIV on effective treatment do not sexually transmit HIV.
Prevention Access Campaign is a multi-agency effort that hopes to end epidemics of HIV and HIV-related stigmas.