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Last updated at 14:18 BST, Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Washington Aids epidemic


13 April 2009

The US Capital, Washington DC, is fighting an epidemic of HIV / Aids that's affecting 3% of the city's population. The rate of infection is the highest in the US and higher than a number of African nations.

Jonathan Beale in Washington

Aids ribbon

Aids ribbon


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Washington's HIV / Aids problem is getting worse, not better. There's been a 20% increase in cases in the past two years. The city's department of health says that 3% of its residents over the age of twelve are now living with HIV / Aids. That's a rate that officials say is on a par with Uganda and parts of Kenya. The United Nations’ definition of an epidemic is when it affects more than 1% of the population.

In Washington the majority of those infected are African American. Men aged between 40 and 50 have been the hardest hit.

The city is discussing ways of tackling the problem with an emphasis on more testing. But Washington's Mayor Adrian Fenty says that so far the message appears to be going in one ear and out the other.

Three ways of transmission appear to be fuelling the spread of the virus: men having sex with men, heterosexual sex and infection through drug use.

Jonathan Beale, BBC News, Washington


Click to hear the words:


a 20% increase in cases
here, 20% more people affected by and diagnosed with HIV / Aids
the speed at which something happens, or the number of times that something happens
on a par with
comparable with, similar to
an epidemic
when a particular disease affects a large number of people at the same time
the hardest hit
the most affected (in a negative way)
dealing with, solving
with an emphasis on
specifically encouraging / calling for
appears to be going in one ear and out the other
does not seem to be taken seriously enough to have an effect; seems to be ignored
fuelling the spread of the virus
causing the epidemic to grow