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 (282 cases in 2019), and 12,408 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 89% 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 (31%), followed by African American heterosexual women (16%). [1]

Racial/ethnic disparities also exist in terms of access to and engagement in care. Among those newly diagnosed with HIV, 86% of white individuals were linked to care within three months of diagnosis (considered a best practice), compared to 80% and 82% 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 69% of D.C. residents living with HIV  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, 7,213 individuals are living with HIV. [4] Of Northern Virginians, 82% of those living with HIV were African American or Latinx, and the primary mode of transmission was men who have sex with men.[4] In Suburban Maryland, there were 11,459 individuals living with HIV.[5] Among living Suburban Maryland HIV cases, 92% were among Black, Latinx, and other people of color, and the primary mode of transmission was men who have sex with men followed by heterosexual contact among Black women.[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 2020.
[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. 2019 VA HIV Surveillance Annual Report: Table 7, 9. Released 2019.
[5] Maryland Department of Health. Maryland HIV/AIDS Quarterly Update – 1st Quarter 2020: 11. 3/2020
[6] MDoH. Suburban Region Annual HIV Epidemiological Profile 2018: 26-27, 33. Released 2019.