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The District loses its effective HIV/AIDS chief

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an epidemic is considered "generalized and severe" when more than 1 percent of a local population is infected. Well, in March 2008, we learned that at least 3 percent of the entire population of the District of Columbia is living with HIV/AIDS. And the reason we even know this harrowing statistic is because of Dr. Shannon Hader.

With one report she reminded us that, while the epidemic is raging overseas, it is an inferno right here in the nation's capital. Getting that survey done -- and putting other systems in place to give the District a fighting chance to overcome the disease with no cure -- is the kind of leadership that put the city's troubled HIV/AIDS administration on a better, more accountable path. That's why today's announcement that after three years of service Hader is stepping down as director of the HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration (HAHSTA) is such a blow.

The Post's "Wasting Away" series documented the dysfunction and waste at the agency before Hader's arrival and that still haunt corners of it today. But she has been able to make incredible advances. The District is the first in the country to implement routine HIV testing for all adults and adolescents. Knowing your status is the key to protecting yourself and others. Because perinatal HIV testing has been expanded to "nearly all labor and delivery suites," HAHSTA says it reduced the number of babies born with HIV from 10 in 2005 to just 1 in 2007. And Hader secured a $26 million partnership with the National Institutes of Health to improve treatment and help recruit researchers.

Those are structural, institutional and policy changes that will continue after Hader's departure next month. I hope Mayor Adrian Fenty can find another HAHSTA director to match the passion and leadership Hader brought to the post.

By Jonathan Capehart  | June 8, 2010; 5:05 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Dr. Hader is a very talented, experienced, and passionate appointment who sat as chief of a department that is underresourced, undervalued, and overworked considering the tasks ahead of them.

Unless her successor is allowed to provide innovative and effective techniques to challenge an epidemic that is multifaceted and multilayered. Someone who is encouraged to provide all available resources to support a interagency, citywide, comprehensive plan that follows the Administration's "promise" of truly addressing the HIV & AIDS epidemic at its roots.

Ending the 600+ people with AIDS that are currently on a fast growing housing waiting list; implementing comprehensive sex and sexuality education in schools; increasing services and support to combat sexual violence would be a great start, Mayor Fenty, in supporting the success of Dr. Hader's replacement and keeping that "promise".

Posted by: LarryBryant | June 8, 2010 7:25 PM | Report abuse

"documented the dysfunction and waste at the agency before Hader's arrival and that still haunt corners of it today"
Well, this is the same type of government you want running ALL health care right?
Corruption is in Government, in all levels. Want effective change? Get the PEOPLE involved - people want to help - but I'll be damned if I will give more money to the fat cats. Why don't you take the lead and start a foundation to help out? Oh, wait, that would be work.

Posted by: dcjayhawk2 | June 9, 2010 6:14 AM | Report abuse

While most sit and stand and kiss her derriere. Speaking from personal experience the leadership or the lack there of is representative of the arrogance and solipsistic nature of this administration and the ever changing face of the DC governments managerial positions. The attitude of they no best is the reason for the city's problems.

First the statistics everyone speaks of, the 3% are that of compromised data sets. One, the district offers free services not just to DC residents but to everyone and a large amount of the cases are MD/VA, which increases the Districts numbers.

Secondly the algorithm (link on bottom)which is in use by CDC/APHL is not being followed at most city clinics and other health care facilities.

Third the rapid testing has shown numerous false positive (Whitman Walker), which represents a problem there also is not any secondary testing so data should be invalid. These rapid methods do not replace EIA/Western Blot methods. Also the level of competency of the tester (no scientific background)should be in question.

Having listened to scientist in the city's public health laboratory (yes there is one DCPHL)they suggest "where are these inflated numbers" they certainly are not coming from there lab. Also, should not positive be confirmed by the city's licensed testing body.

To speak of the agency and its praise is to be delusional at best. Speaking of underfunded, understaffed, overworked, underpaid. City scientist in the lab see the results day in and day out. In and age where HIV/AIDS numbers are inflated for municipal monetary gains. How can one trust the city to give accurate stats when there is no synergy at the department level.

Thank You,

Posted by: Pharaohdc | June 10, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

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