The number of Washington area residents with acquired immunity deficiency syndrome (AIDS) has more than doubled in the last six months and the increase is expected to continue at that rate throughout the year, local hospital officials told a meeting of three advisory neighborhood commissions in Anacostia last night.
"There are 303 cases in suburban Maryland, D.C. and Northern Virginia," said David Naylor, a coordinator of the AIDS education fund at the Whitman-Walker Clinic, the city's best-known health and counseling center for homosexual men and women. According to figures collected by the District of Columbia Commission of Public Health, there were 128 cases in the metropolitan area in 1984 and 59 cases in 1983.
"Our numbers will . . . possibly triple in 1985," over 1984 cases, said Carolyn Jackson, director of infection control for Greater Southeast Community Hospital, noting that the increase here parallels a marked increase in AIDS cases nationwide.
"Already in the month of June, we've had seven patients die of AIDS at D.C. General," said Cheryl Wilson, director of infection control for the hospital. Two AIDS patients died there yesterday, said Wilson, who added that there have been about 20 cases diagnosed at D.C. General in recent years.
"In January we did not say AIDS if a patient came in with troublesome symptoms," Wilson said. "Now we're saying at least rule out AIDS."
The District ranks as the eighth-largest AIDS population in the country, surpassing Chicago, Boston, Atlanta and Philadelphia, according to figures issued by the Whitman-Walker Clinic.
The largest concentration of AIDS cases in the District is in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood, according to a map developed by the city. D.C. figures also show half the 170 people in the District who developed AIDS are black, including two black women. The Whitman-Walker clinic has begun an ad campaign on Metrobuses designed to reach blacks and Hispanics with information about AIDS.
During last night's meeting at Paramount Baptist Church, individuals who work with AIDS patients spoke of problems encountered at funeral homes and with patients' families, health care workers and employers.
Jackson said hospital workers have refused to enter patients' rooms and have left food trays at the door. Patients' families "sometime do not seek knowledge and serve them on paper plates at home," said Greater Southeast's Jackson. "There is no reason to have these fears," she said. "You will not get AIDS by casual contact, by walking in the room or using the telephone after them."
Dr. Leslie Hardware, head of outpatient services at Hadley Memorial Hospital, said there have been "no cases of AIDS transmitted to medical personnel." Still, he said, "The fear just hangs over the hospital."
Wilson said that American Hospital Association guidelines require D.C. General Hospital to place the bodies of AIDS patients who have died in thick plastic bags. One AIDS counselor noted that a family he was helping was required by a local funeral home to pay $400 extra to have an open casket.
Gaston Neal, a member of the Mayor's AIDS Task Force, urged that a special program be started to educate the city's estimated 20,000 intravenous drug users not to share needles. "Through the IV drug users, AIDS comes straight to us," said Neal. "It's not a sermon about using drugs because they'll do it anyway. It's stopping the exchange of needles."
The forum on AIDS was sponsored by Advisory Neighborhood Commissions 8C, 8D and 8E. "This disease is incurable, fatal and spreading," said Philip Pannell, an 8E commissioner who organized the session. "It is important that those of us east of the Anacostia River get educated."