AIDS Forum a Reminder of D.C. Epidemic

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"Some people see me as a mother figure, for others I'm a sister or an aunt," Smith said as she talked about identifying with girls and women of many ages.

She also provides HIV education to some of the District's poor and less-educated residents. "I always keep it on their level," she said. "I speak their language."

But despite the efforts of people like Hazel, as well as health officials and researchers, the prevalence of HIV in Washington is 2.7 percent, remaining well above the World Health Organization's 1 percent threshold for declaring a "severe and generalized epidemic."

And mirroring the national epidemic, racial disparities are striking. More than 6 percent of D.C.'s black men have HIV, more than double the prevalence among white men. An estimated 2.6 percent of black women in the District are living with HIV, compared with only 0.1 percent of white women.

While the District's progress in combating the epidemic is evident, there is still a long way to go.

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