The US capital is being ravaged by an epidemic of HIV/AIDS, with African-American men and people aged 40-49 the hardest hit by the deadly virus, a report showed Monday.
At the end of last year, three percent of all Washington residents over the age of 12 had the HIV virus that causes AIDS or the full-blown disease itself, a report by the city's department of health said.
"To some, three percent of the city's population living with HIV/AIDS may seem like a small number. In comparison, of all Americans, less than one-half of one percent are living with cancer," the report said.
It also pointed out that both the United Nations' HIV/AIDS agency and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have defined an HIV epidemic as "generalized and severe when the overall percentage of disease among residents of a specific geographic area exceeds one percent."
"The overall proportion in the District is three times higher," the report said, warning that the true infection rate in the capital is probably even greater because "between one-third and one-half of residents may be unaware of their infection."
The rate of infection in Washington was higher than the impoverished African nation of Burkina Faso, where around 1.6 percent of adults between the ages of 15 and 49 are living with HIV/AIDS, and Ukraine in eastern Europe, which has the same infection rate as Burkina Faso, according to UNAIDS.
In Washington, black men and adults aged 40 to 49 were the hardest hit by what the report called "a substantial epidemic," with around seven percent of both groups found to be living with HIV, the report said.
White and Hispanic women were the only two groups who were below the UN- and CDC-defined epidemic levels, with infection rates of 0.2 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.
Men having sex with men was the leading mode of transmission of HIV/AIDS in Washington, accounting for nearly four in 10 cases, followed by heterosexual contact and injection drug use with 28 percent and 18 percent respectively.