The District of Columbia is making significant progress in fight against the HIV/AIDS scourge. However, city officials want to put an end to it once and for all and have a plan, they say, to do just that.

On Dec.1, recognized internationally as “World AIDS Day,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and officials with the D.C. Department of Health, brain trust D.C. Appleseed, and the Washington AIDS Partnership, announced a blueprint to end HIV/AIDS in the District under the title “90/90/90/50.” Bowser said the plan is designed to make sure that HIV/AIDS isn’t just manageable, but done for good.

Muriel Bowser is the mayor of the District of Columbia.  (Courtesy Photo)

Muriel Bowser is the mayor of the District of Columbia. (Courtesy Photo)

“The 90/90/90/50 plan represents a comprehensive approach to ending the HIV epidemic in the District, one that is disproportionately impacting communities of color,” the mayor said. “We are ensuring that the District continues to make progress in this critical fight through awareness, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.”

The 90/90/90/50 plan is defined as 90 percent of District residents with HIV will know their status; 90 percent of HIV residents diagnosed will be in treatment; 90 percent of HIV residents will achieve viral load suppression (not able to transmit the disease); and the District will see an overall 50 percent decrease in new HIV cases by 2020.

Statistics compiled by the health department’s “2016 Annual Epidemiology & Surveillance Report” state that 13,391 District residents live with HIV which translates into two percent of the population, way above the preferred one percent but a significant improvement from three percent that was reported in the late 2000s. The report says that while men comprise 47.4 percent of the District’s population, 71.8 percent of the people with the disease are male and while Blacks make up 47.4 percent of the city’s population, 75 percent of all new cases are from Black residents.

The report says that Black women consist of 93.9 percent of the HIV cases for District females.

However, there is good news. The report said that 2015 was the eighth consecutive year that there was a decrease in new cases discovered with 371, a 41 percent decrease from 2011, that posted more than 700 cases.

The report said there were no HIV infected babies born in the District. “That is something really to cheer about,” Bowser said.

The mayor said the District is being proactive about fighting HIV/AIDS in part because of the unpredictable national political scene. “We need to take action because we don’t know what the new Congress or the national executive will do about HIV/AIDS,” she said.

Dr. LaQuanda Nesbitt, director of the D.C. Department of Health, said HIV/AIDS is no longer the automatic death sentence it was years ago. “There are people who can live well into their 70s and 80s with HIV/AIDS,” she said. “By using evidence-based methods and interventions, the 90/90/90/50 plan will be instrumental in reducing the number of HIV cases in D.C., while improving treatment for existing cases. We have been consistent in making progress and this brings us closer to meeting our goal.”

Philip Pannell, executive director of the Anacostia Coordinating Council and an activist for equitable HIV/AIDS treatment, told the AFRO that Bowser’s plan “sounds ambitious and is encouraging on its face.”

“At least they are giving it a try,” he said. “I will pray for the 10 percent.”

But, Pannell voiced broader concerns in a political context. “Public officials tend to announce initiatives like this to take place for several years,” he said. “What will happen if Bowser isn’t mayor in 2019, will this plan still be around? The mayor should get the support of the D.C. Council and the community to make sure it is still around if she isn’t in a few years.”