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A new campaign has started in Washington DC and it has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with a report that came out earlier this year. Because of the city's escalating HIV rates, health and political officials are urging residents to get an HIV test.
The new initiative, which the Washington Examiner says will cost the city $225,000, will last for five years and includes advertisements that will have DC residents holding signs that read, "Ask for the Test." There will also be a way for people to send a text message to find out the nearest STD testing location from where they are.
According to campaign authorities, there will be a different message by the winter, which will urge people to talk to their partners about their HIV status and to use condoms on a regular basis.
"Hopefully within a short period of time, people are going to understand that they're not going to go to the doctor without asking for an HIV test," Mayor Adrian Fenty told the news provider.
He added that HIV was the city's "greatest public health challenge."
But why the sudden attention to HIV and AIDS in the nation's capital? Earlier this year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found HIV rates were rising in Washington DC and described the situation "severe," which ignited a new sense of AIDS awareness that may have been lacking when compared to past years.
Report brings AIDS back to forefront
In the early 1990s, AIDS was in the mindset of the general public thanks to the creation of the iconic red ribbon by the New York-based Visual AIDS artist caucus. Soon well-known actors, politicians and prominent public figures adorned the simple ribbon on their clothing.
AIDS awareness events took off, such as walks and bike rides, and more fundraisers were done for research pertaining to the disease or to help those afflicted by the condition and who couldn't afford medication.
The awareness movement most likely hit its peak in 1993 with the release of the film Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. The film portrayed a homosexual lawyer (Hanks) who files a wrongful termination lawsuit against his former law firm who fired him for being gay.
Hanks, who later won an Academy Award for his portrayal, helped bring the conversation about AIDS to certain communities and made it more relatable for some people who may not have been personally affected by the condition.
However, the AIDS awareness campaign soon started to fade, with other causes coming into the limelight such as breast cancer and autism.
More than 10 years later, the red ribbon isn't as prominent as it once was and, thanks to the advancement of certain medication, being HIV positive is no longer the death sentence it was.
These factors made a report, funded by the CDC and conducted by the George Washington University School of Health and Health Services, all the more surprising to some health officials in the country.
According to the report, at least 3 percent of the residents in DC were living with HIV or AIDS and every mode of transmission was on the rise.
This meant that a total of 2,984 residents for every 100,000 over the age of 12 was living with AIDS in Washington DC.
"Our rates are higher than West Africa," Shannon L. Hader, director of the District's HIV/AIDS Administration, told the Washington Post. "They're on par with Uganda and some parts of Kenya."
Hader had once led the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's work in Zimbabwe.
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