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Wash DC tries to improve HIV/AIDS initiatives
  The Associated Press
Feb 4, 2007 1:14 PM
WASHINGTON - - The District of Columbia's health director has launched a campaign to address what has been called an AIDS/HIV crisis in the nation's capital.
Today, one in 20 District residents is infected with the human immunodeficiency virus - the virus that causes AIDS - and about one in 15 residents is living with AIDS. The rate of infection in the city is far above the national rate.
Last month, Dr. Gregg Pane took control of the health department's troubled HIV/AIDS Administration from Marsha Martin, who announced her departure only hours after new Mayor Adrian M. Fenty was sworn into office. Pane is realigning the administration and using its resources to tackle a series of "critical tasks" within 90 days.
Among the initiatives are developing disease response and prevention plans, distributing condoms and better organizing HIV data.
"I felt action was needed," Pane said last week. "We're all saying it's a crisis. Let's do something. Shake it up and set some goals."
Under the plan, about 250,000 condoms will be distributed to 60 nonprofits by mid-February, and HIV rapid test kits will be given to doctors. The city also is developing a comprehensive HIV prevention effort for youths, reviewing grant management and conducting oversight visits of the government's service providers.
Pane said employees will enter 1,200 backlogged HIV surveillance cases into District databases - which are key to tracking the epidemic and applying for federal grant funding.
D.C. Appleseed, a nonprofit, public-policy organization, contributed to the city's plan, Pane said. In a December review of the government's efforts, the group said the city had made progress but that top officials "have not remained engaged leaders on this issue."
"My reaction is it's a very good thing that Dr. Pane this quickly is trying to get organized and give this thing high priority, high visibility," D.C. Appleseed executive director Walter Smith said.
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