Thursday, June 19, 2008

Half of AIDS-related deaths unreported in D.C.

The District of Columbia's way of reporting AIDS-related deaths missed more than 50% of the deaths that occurred from 2000 to 2005, according to an analysis by the D.C. Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Washington Post reports that "of the 2,460 deaths from AIDS-related illnesses during the six-year period, 1,337 had not been reported because the city's system for tracking the toll of the disease was inadequate. At least 12,500 District residents have AIDS, giving it one of the highest rates in the country. Officials estimate that between 3 and 5 percent of people in the District are infected, twice the rate of New York, for example."

The new analysis illustrates that the AIDS epidemic devastated D.C. to a much greater extent than officials had realized.

"This tells us our surveillance system wasn't complete enough," said Shannon Hader, senior deputy director of the D.C. Health Department's HIV/AIDS Administration. "We're clearly underreporting."

The Washington Post reported in 2006 that the District's AIDS agency found five boxes containing files of 2,000 to 3,000 cases never entered in the city's database. This type of case information is considered essential in managing the epidemic.

"We want to drive down the number of people living with HIV and make sure those who are infected are getting the care they need. To do that we have to have an accurate count," Hader said, noting that the amount of federal funding the city gets to fight AIDS is based on such estimates. "We want everything they owe us."