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Author Topic: Shocking. DC's Whitman-Walker reports HIV diagnosis increase of 232%  (Read 759 times)

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Online Miss Philicia

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D.C. clinic’s HIV case numbers surge
Whitman-Walker diagnoses up 232 percent from last year
By LOU CHIBBARO JR, Washington Blade | Aug 8, 10:59 AM

The Whitman-Walker Clinic has revealed the number of its clients testing positive for HIV jumped from 80 in the first half of 2007 to 266 in the first half of 2008 — an unprecedented increase of 232 percent.

Clinic officials said the new findings are especially troubling because the total number of people it tested for HIV so far in 2008, about 6,500, is roughly the same number it tested during the first half of 2007, meaning the spike in cases was not a result of testing of more people.

“These are troubling statistics that warrant more aggressive education, prevention, and testing initiatives,” said Dr. Raymond Martins, Whitman-Walker’s chief medical officer.

Martins said the clinic is reviewing demographic and other background information of the clients that were diagnosed this year with HIV to determine a possible cause for the increase in positive cases.

He also said one-third of the clinic’s clients diagnosed with HIV this year were found to have AIDS. Many had no obvious symptoms of illness but a measurement of their body’s immune system was found to be past the benchmark for an AIDS diagnosis, Martins said.

Martins said that similar to findings in recent years, gay men and African Americans comprised most of the clients diagnosed with HIV during the first half of 2008.

News of the increase in HIV diagnoses for Whitman-Walker’s clients comes less than a week after the CDC released new data showing that the number of new HIV cases in the U.S. each year has been about 56,500 since the early 2000s. The CDC had previously estimated the number of new cases each year to be about 40,000.

CDC officials have said the increase stems from better techniques for counting and identifying new infections rather than an actual increase in new infections.

Whitman-Walker’s new data, however, appear to show a clear increase in the actual number of new HIV infections among its client base, according to Martins.

He and Justin Goforth, director of Whitman-Walker’s Medical Adherence Unit, said young males make up a large percentage of the new cases in the D.C. area.

“At each of our testing sites, we are seeing an increasing number of young gay men, particularly African American men, coming to us newly infected,” Goforth said. “These are young men who don’t remember the first wave of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and came of age when effective treatments were available. As a result, they have never seen HIV as a major problem.”
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