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City Aims To Step Up HIV Battle

By Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and the District's top health officials went to the Deanwood neighborhood in Northeast on Monday to announce a new effort to get people tested for HIV. The visit came on the heels of a report that shows at least 3 percent of D.C. residents and 6.5 percent of the city's black males are infected with the AIDS virus.

Cornell Jones, executive director of Miracle Hands, a nonprofit community development organization, said the city is not doing enough to assist people who work with ex-offenders, a group with one of the highest HIV infection rates.

"Right now, the agencies in the forefront of this battle are being attacked with a lack of funding," said Jones, whose organization runs an HIV/AIDS prevention program within the D.C. Department of Corrections.

Danette Williams, deputy director of Miracle Hands, said one of its most urgent needs is housing for people with HIV/AIDS.

"We have a revolving door," she said. "They go from emergency housing to supportive housing, and then they are back on the streets because services are fragmented. There is not enough continuity."

Michael Kharfen, spokesman for the Department of Health's HIV/AIDS Administration, said the agency intends to hire someone to address the needs of prisoners and parolees.

According to the report, in 2007, at least 15,120 D.C. residents were infected with HIV or had full-blown AIDS.

Shannon Hader, director of the HIV/AIDS Administration, said the report is the beginning of a new battle to fight the disease.

"I am very hopeful, because I really believe that our citizens and our neighbors can take this information and use it to protect their lives," she said.

D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) blamed the previous administration for not doing enough to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS.

"We had people who we were paying adult wages to run the HIV/AIDS administration who did not have the qualifications or talent or where with all to do it," Catania said. "We had contractors who were happy to take the money [but] not delivering the services."

Waterside Station Is On Schedule, Mayor Says

As dust drifted into the air from the construction site behind him, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) announced last week that the Waterside Station project in Southwest is on schedule for the opening of its first phase in about a year.

"We couldn't be more excited," Fenty said as he stood in the shadows of a high-rise construction site. Government agencies will occupy 1.2 million square feet of office space at the Waterside Station, which will replace the dilapidated Waterside Mall. The first phase is expected to be completed next March.

In subsequent phases, 1,000 residential units will be added, along with underground parking and 110,000 square feet of retail space. The construction site, at M and Fourth streets, outside the Waterside/Southeastern University Metrorail station, is a block away from Arena Stage, which is also being redeveloped, and a short walk from Nationals Park.

Although D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) praised the project, he noted that things are tough right now. There is no sit-down restaurant or coffee shop the neighborhood. A CVS store and Bank of America branch occupy trailers. Neighborhood residents often stand in dim light and long lines at an aging Safeway grocery store. Each business will move into new retail space when the project is completed.

"There are a lot of things that aren't here, so this project is very important to us," Wells said, speaking for himself and neighborhood representatives in attendance. "I can't say how excited I am to hear that noise in the background."

That noise was pounding, hammering and the clink of steel being put into place. Bulldozers prepared the ground so that workers can rebuild Fourth Street, reopening it to through traffic for the first time since urban renewal wiped the previous Southwest neighborhood off the map, sending residents to housing projects throughout the city.

Council member Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large), chairman of the economic development committee, noted that planning for the project was a decade in the making, starting when Anthony A. Williams was mayor.

"To see this happening today is something that's very special," Brown said.

But not everybody is pleased. The day before, a group of affordable-housing activists attempted to upstage a joint fundraiser that Fenty had with Newark Mayor Corey Booker. Chanting "One-term mayor, one-term mayor," protesters, including several union groups, accused Fenty of not making enough property available for affordable housing.

State of the District Address Delayed

Did Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) have a few last-minute changes to make to his annual State of the District speech? The address will be delivered today at the Hattie Holmes Senior Wellness Center in Northwest. The mayor had been scheduled to deliver his speech Tuesday at the center, at 324 Kennedy St. NW, but it was postponed.

First Lady, Norton Do Lunch at Union Station

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) had lunch with first lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday afternoon at B. Smith's restaurant at Union Station.

Norton had dined with the first lady during a Super Bowl party at the White House, and Norton said that Obama had expressed interest in having lunch again. Norton spokeswoman Sonseray Montgomery said that the two women talked about how seldom each has the opportunity to have an informal lunch and that they agreed to get together again.

According to Norton's office, the first lady showed that she is at home away from home by ordering a crab dish, and Norton ate a mixed seafood dish.

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