The District of Columbia will spend $889,000 in the coming year on AIDS education and services, a fivefold increase made necessary by the growing number of residents afflicted with the debilitating disease.
As of this week, 277 city residents have been found to have acquired immune deficiency syndrome since the first case was reported in 1980. Of that number, 143 -- mostly men under 40 -- have died.
The metropolitan Washington area, with 475 reported cases of AIDS, has the sixth largest concentration of AIDS cases in the nation, according to Jim Graham, director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, a health clinic that serves this area's homosexual population. The nation's highest concentration is in New York City, followed by San Francisco, Los Angeles, Newark and Miami, Graham said.
Selma DeLeon, the city's AIDS epidemiologist, said that if the increase reported in the last six months continues, the number of cases of AIDS in the city will double last year's figure.
"The situation has worsened since the time the District's 1986 budget was originally submitted, and we are increasing our services and funding in response to the need," Mayor Marion Barry said yesterday.
The city's budget had designated $175,000 for AIDS efforts, and last month a coalition of gay rights groups asked the mayor to increase the amount to $1.5 million.
Barry gave the coalition nearly all it requested, but deleted $450,000 sought for a home health-care system. Instead, he asked the coalition to devise a method under which the city might pay the volunteers who now help AIDS patients in their homes.
The mayor also set up a new job of AIDS coordinator and said that the city is seeking candidates.
The bulk of the budgeted funds, $459,000, will be used for educational efforts for the public, health care providers and government workers.
"We've done Metro fare cards and bus posters, and we've arranged with Dupont Action Lights to have prevention messages flash next year, and have a video public service announcement for television," Graham said.
The Whitman-Walker Clinic, which has provided the majority of social service support for AIDS patients in metropolitan Washington in recent years, will receive an additional $125,000 from the city to maintain its testing program for exposure to AIDS and its AIDS hot line. This is in addition to $125,000 the city had budgeted to support the clinic's services and its administration.
The city also will give $80,000 to the clinic to provide housing, which Graham termed an urgent need because, he said, some landlords, friends and relatives force AIDS patients to leave their homes.
The clinic, which operates the Swartz Home for five AIDS patients, will be opening a second facility, the Engebretsen House, in Northwest Washington on Dec. 1.
"There is a great need for people with AIDS who have been displaced," Graham said. "We hope to open a third by Feb. 1. The mayor's commitment of funds is good news, because our community has been shouldering the burden of AIDS through private generosity. It's clear that isn't enough."
Education efforts are vital, he said, explaining: "On my desk are five cases of those summarily dismissed from their jobs because of AIDS, just in the last month."
He said that those losing their jobs included two waiters, a hairdresser, a government worker and a corporation employe.
"We need to calm the deeply felt fears of contagion," Graham said.
The additional money for the AIDS efforts will be taken from the D.C. Department of Human Services' $809 million budget, according to department Director David E. Rivers, who said that he has not decided which programs will be cut to pay for AIDS services
Rivers recently was appointed by the mayor to devise a citywide plan to address problems relating to AIDS and housing, employment, health care and other issues. Rivers said that the plan should be written in four to six months.
Rivers said that several unions representing city workers are discussing hazard pay for workers dealing with AIDS patients.
"I learned in a meeting today that a mechanic didn't want to perform routine maintenance on an ambulance that transported an AIDS victim," Rivers said.
He said that the city government will issue a policy in two weeks on how it will deal with its own employes who have AIDS.
Rivers said the policy will follow guidelines prepared by the federal Centers for Disease Control, which generally approve of workers continuing in their jobs.