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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 13:36 EDT

HIV/AIDS Epidemic In Washington D.C.

March 16, 2009

A report showed Monday, that the U.S. capital is being ravaged by an epidemic of HIV/AIDS, with African-American men and people aged 40-49 being the hardest hit by the deadly virus.

Three percent of all Washington residents over the age of 12 had the HIV virus that causes AIDS or the full-blown disease itself at the end of last year, according to a report by the city’s department of health.

“To some, three percent 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 one percent are living with cancer,” the report said.

The HIV epidemic has been defined by the United Nations’ HIV/AIDS agency and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “generalized and severe when the overall percentage of disease among residents of a specific geographic area exceeds one percent.”

“The overall proportion in the District is three times higher,” the report said, warning that the true infection rate in the capital is probably even greater because “between one-third and one-half of residents may be unaware of their infection.”

Washington’s rate of infection was higher than the impoverished African nation of Burkina Faso, where around 1.6 percent 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.

Black men and adults aged 40 to 49 were the hardest hit in Washington by what the report called “a substantial epidemic,” including about seven percent of both groups found to be living with HIV, the report said.

The only two groups that were below the UN and CDC defined epidemic levels was White and Hispanic women, with infection rates of 0.2 percent and 0.7 percent.

The leading mode of transmission of HIV/AIDS in Washington was men having sex with men, accounting for nearly four in 10 cases, followed by heterosexual contact and injection drug use with 28 percent and 18 percent respectively.