D.C. City Council at-large candidates highlighted the growing AIDS epidemic in the District and one even called it “genocide” Saturday at the Greater D.C. Cares in Northwest.
The discussion at the AIDS advocacy group D.C. Fights Back event – that was held in conjunction with the National AIDS coalition – brought together four AIDS activists and the five candidates. The candidates said the AIDS epidemic is increasing homelessness in the city and creating housing problems.
“This is a genocide,” said candidate David Schwartzman about the District’s HIV/AIDS infection rates.
With the impending election only a few weeks away, the candidates discussed how AIDS solutions would play into their platforms and how rates of infection as well as the disparity between low- and high-income housing could be improved for AIDS victims who cannot afford housing.
Solutions to lower D.C. infection rates and raise housing opportunities for those infected included the reallocation of city money, raising additional funds and increasing sex education within secondary schools.
In D.C., about one in 20 people are infected with HIV and one in 50 people are estimated to be living with AIDS.
The D.C. housing crisis that is leaving a growing number of low-income residents homeless every year is a problem that D.C. Fights Back as well as the National AIDS Housing Coalition is also working to improve.
“If I don’t have anywhere to sleep, I don’t care if I have HIV,” said Carolyn Massey, one of the HIV positive speakers at the event. “I need a place to lay my head at night.”
Mark Fischer, a longtime D.C. resident who has been HIV positive for more than 20 years, said his homosexuality should not be blamed for his AIDS.
“If God made me gay and you don’t like me gay, you shake your finger at God,” Fischer said.
He also rejected the notion of the “old face of HIV/AIDS – the gay white male,” Fischer said the disease is not exclusive to a certain demographic, but is prominent with the “uninformed.”
“People need to see that this is not a gay man’s disease,” he said. “It is the disease of the uneducated, the people we need to educate.”
D.C. Fights Back hosted this community dialogue for the second time to raise awareness on the AIDS problem.
George Kerr, D.C. Fights Back co-chairman, said, “(AIDS) needs to be addressed with a sense of urgency, immediately.”