HIV in the Greater Washington Region

In recent years, Washington, D.C. has made tremendous progress in getting closer to the city’s goal of ending the local HIV epidemic. But new HIV cases continue to occur (368 cases in 2017), and 13,003 D.C. residents are currently living with HIV.[1] Simply living in the District means that a person is more at risk for HIV. D.C. residents have a 1 in 13 chance of receiving an HIV diagnosis in their lifetime. [2] In contrast, for the average American, the chance is 1 in 99.[2]

Communities of color experience the highest rates of HIV infection in Washington, D.C. African Americans and Latinx residents account for 83% of newly diagnosed HIV cases while only 57% of the D.C. population.[1]  Wards 4, 5, 7, and 8, which have the highest concentrations of residents of color, have the highest rates of HIV. [1]  [3]  New HIV cases are concentrated at the intersection of race and sexual orientation: African American men who have sex with men (MSM) had the highest proportion of new HIV cases (26%), followed by African American heterosexual women (14%). [1]

Racial/ethnic disparities also exist in terms of access to and engagement in care. Among those newly diagnosed with HIV, 80% of white individuals were linked to care within thirty days of diagnosis (considered a best practice), compared to 72% and 74% of African Americans and Latinx individuals. [1]  Africans Americans were less likely to have reached HIV viral suppression within 12 months of HIV diagnosis when compared to white individuals.[1] Overall, only 73% of D.C. residents living with HIV were engaged in continuous care (more than one medical visit related to their HIV status) in 2017, and only 65% had achieved HIV viral load suppression, making them less likely to transmit the disease.[1] HIV viral suppression is key to ending the epidemic as it greatly decreases the risk of HIV-positive individuals transmitting the disease to others. Viral suppression cannot be achieved without access to and engagement in care.

The epidemic is not only adversely impacting D.C.: in Northern Virginia, 6,862 individuals are living with HIV. [4] Of Northern Virginians, 64% of those living with HIV were African American or Latinx, and 50% were attributed to MSM.[4] In Suburban Maryland, there were 11,503 individuals living with HIV.[5] Among living Suburban Maryland HIV cases, 77% were among African Americans, 65% were among male-identifying individuals, and 44% were attributed to heterosexual contact, followed closely by MSM.[6]  Individuals seeking HIV-related services may travel across state lines, so it is important that efforts to eliminate HIV in D.C. are made available to residents of the entire region.

This data clearly demonstrates that while much progress has been made, the Greater Washington region cannot slow down its efforts if the goal is to end the local HIV epidemic. The Washington AIDS Partnership will continue to be on the frontlines of this public health crisis. Read more about our newest projects such as Ending the HIV epidemic in D.C. and PrEP for Women initiative, as we work to eliminate new HIV cases, and care for those living with HIV.


[1] DC HAHSTA Annual Epidemiology Report & Appendices: 3, 6-7, 9-10, A31, A40, A46, A49-50. Released 2018.
[2] CDC Lifetime HIV Risk Diagnosis Factsheet. 2017.
[3] Urban Institute. A Vision for an Equitable DC: March 2017. http://www.urban.org/features/vision-equitable-dc.
[4] Virginia Dept of Health. 2018 VA HIV Surveillance Annual Report: Table 7, 9. Released 2019.
[5] Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene. HIV Quarterly Update – 4th Quarter 2018: 10. 12/2018.  
[6] MDHMH. Suburban Regional HIV Annual Epidemiological Profile 2017: 21, 26, 34. Released 2018.