And the scourge of HIV/AIDS weighs particularly heavily on the minds of African American residents, who suffer from the disease in disproportionate numbers, are far more likely than white residents to raise it as a concern in discussions and more often fret over whether they or their family members will become infected.
More than four in 10 African Americans — 44 percent — say they personally are concerned about contracting HIV, compared with 10 percent of white residents, according to the poll.
“It’s spreading so rapidly in the black community,” said Ahwaneda Brown, reflecting the concern of the 65 percent of African American respondents who fear a family member might get the virus. Only 8 percent of white residents are similarly worried.
Although Brown has not discussed the issue with her adult grandchildren, the 82-year-old retired school counselor said: “I know my daughter has. I have the type of family that will talk with their children because I have talked to mine. We are very open about talking.”
The District has what is considered to be one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the nation. More than 3 percent of residents older than 12 — about 16,000 people — are stricken, high enough to be categorized as an epidemic under to a standard set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
Fully three-quarters of residents living with the virus are African Americans, according to the city’s latest annual epidemiology report. It found that 17 percent are white and 5 percent Hispanic.
The disease’s impact is widely noted: nearly seven of 10 African American residents say the spread of HIV/AIDS is a problem in their communities, versus just half of white residents.
About two-thirds of blacks say they know someone directly affected by HIV or AIDS. Across the city, 58 percent of residents say someone they know has the disease or has died of it — far higher than the 41 percent who said so in a national survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Potentially contributing to the challenge for the city’s black residents is that they are far less likely than whites to have private health insurance. More than 90 percent of white residents say they get coverage through an employer or another private source, but only 47 percent of black residents say they do.
The D.C. government provides free health care and medicine to residents who have the HIV virus.
But financial difficulties affect the health care of many District residents. Fully 25 percent of African Americans with incomes under $20,000 say they have delayed medical care in the past year because they couldn’t afford it.