News & Politics

DC Government’s AIDS Policy Gets Mixed Reviews

The District has a long way to go in fighting the AIDS epidemic, a local think tank says.

The DC government’s efforts to combat HIV and AIDS got a mixed review in a new “report card” from local think tank DC Appleseed. The District is getting better at testing, condom distribution, and access to clean syringes, the group said, but it also fell back along to several benchmarks.

The report was the eighth annual survey of the District’s AIDS policy published by DC Appleseed, which receives the bulk of its funding from a coalition of law firms.

The DC Department of Health reported in September that about 15,000 residents suffer from HIV or AIDS. The study released today found 718 new cases in 2012.

“It is a reminder that we still have a long way to go to end the epidemic,” DC Appleseed Executive Director Walter Smith said in a press release. “DC government, service providers, and the community need to work together as partners now more than ever.”

But government leadership is one of the five categories in which the District lost points, falling from a “B” to a “B-minus.” DC Appleseed pins the falling grade on fewer public statements about the subject by Mayor Vince Gray and a lack of transparency from city health agencies.

The District also lost points on patient tracking, grant management, and surveillance of the disease. But the report card was harshest toward HIV/AIDS education in city schools. While DC Public Schools received a “B-plus” for curriculum and professional development, charter schools were smacked for having “glaring inadequacies” in educating their students about the illness. Forty-four percent of the District’s school-aged youth attend charter schools.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.