Here’s a reason for the nation’s capital to shoot off some fireworks: New HIV cases plummeted 74 percent since 2007, reports The Washington Post. Specifically, the numbers dropped from 1,333 in 2007 to 347 in 2016.
“We know we have more work to do, but this data is good news for our city and our residents,” Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said at a press conference. “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.”
Preventive measures such as a needle exchange program, condom distribution and increasing use of Truvada as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis, a daily preventive pill for people at risk for the virus) have contributed to the diminishing rates in Washington, DC. Last year alone, the city handed out more than 6 million male and female condoms, according to the newspaper.
This doesn’t mean the district’s HIV problem is solved; it’s still in the midst of an epidemic. About 13,000 residents, or 1.9 percent of the population, are living with the virus.
In its latest efforts to battle the epidemic, the mayor and the city’s department of health have endorsed the #UequalsU campaign as a way to prevent further HIV transmission.
#UequalsU, or U=U, stands for “undetectable equals untransmittable,” the concept being that people living with HIV who take daily meds and maintain an undetectable viral load for at least six months have virtually zero risk of transmitting the virus sexually, even in the absence of condoms.
Bower said advertisements featuring pictures of couples with the tagline, “YOU are the solution” will appear on buses across the city. According to the Post, Bowser is the first mayor in the country to endorse U=U, which is based on a consensus statement originated by the Prevention Access Campaign.