Contrary to recent assertions by District of Columbia Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton that high HIV/AIDS rates continue to plunder African-American communities, a new surveillance data report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention which mirrors the city’s own findings in 2009, reveals that HIV testing is up (from 15 percent in 2005 to 19 percent in 2007). The data also boasts that new AIDS cases are down in the city.

Walt Smith, executive director of DC Appleseed ?which has called for sweeping reforms in the District government’s response to its HIV/AIDS epidemic ? said both Norton and the CDC are on target.

“ seems to be making progress with regard to the number of full blown AIDS cases, but we are still experiencing far too many AIDS cases and new HIV infections,” Smith said. “It’s particularly devastating in the African-American community where the number cases are much higher than their proportion to the population.”

Smith added that with 3 percent of its population infected, the District sits in a class all by itself.

“There’s no other city in the country with numbers that high,” he said, alluding to three years ago when the District first reported a higher rate of AIDS diagnoses than any other area. “This is Third World stuff,” Smith added.

While the CDC’s study shows that HIV/AIDS cases in the nation’s capital are nearly 10 times the national rate, it also reflects that the number of people living with AIDS is increasing. New drug therapies that keep HIV-infected individuals healthy longer and which dramatically reduce the death rate, has been credited.

Last year, Norton ?who includes HIV testing as part of all her public events ?defeated attempts in Congress to re-impose the ban on the city’s use of local money for the syringe exchanges program.

“One-third of D.C. residents may be unaware that they are infected,” Norton conveyed this week in a media alert.

“Getting tested as a community each year on a National HIV Testing is useful to help eliminate the stigma and fear of learning your HIV status.”

According to the CDC’s study, researchers from the District health department worked with the agency to review local HIV testing and AIDS case surveillance from 2004 through 2008.

In doing so, they found in the aftermath of an expansion of efforts in 2006, that the overall proportion of people tested for HIV 2005 increased from 15 percent to 19 percent in 2009.