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US Capital First To Try To Test Entire City For HIV

Testing HIV positive "is not the death sentence it used to be." HIV is the virus which can lead to AIDS.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Jun 27, 2006
The first attempt to test an entire city for HIV kicked off Tuesday in Washington D.C., the US capital, which has the highest HIV infection rate in the United States, officials said. "This is the only attempt to get a whole population of a city to know their HIV status," District of Columbia spokeswoman Marcela Howell told AFP.

The six-month effort was expected to cost some eight million dollars to test as many of Washington's 560,000 residents as possible.

The city's call to test residents aged 14-84 raised some eyebrows, especially due to the cost.

"Fourteen is the age many become sexually active," Howell said. "HIV numbers are going up 55 and up, so we're not going to make any arbitrary cutoff as to people's sexual activity."

The campaign is meant to encourage testing and to include HIV screening as part of standard medical checkups.

"We want to make it as routine as blood pressure and diabetes tests," she said.

Howell said there was no single reason the US capital has such a high HIV rate.

"It is a metropolitan city; education has not reached a lot of people about safe sex; poverty. We haven't reached people with enough information," she said, adding that the US Congress, which has direct control over the city, has banned use of local funds for needle exchange programs among drug addicts.

Chip Lewis, a spokesman for the privately funded Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, estimated that one million people in the United States are HIV positive.

"And one third don't know they are HIV positive," Lewis said.

"Once someone comes in and tests positive, their doctor's medical treatment can help them live many years," he said.

Testing HIV positive "is not the death sentence it used to be." HIV is the virus which can lead to AIDS.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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