Your View: Alexandria is No. 1


Many consider Alexandria to be a highly desirable place to live and raise a family because the city boasts an entertainment epicenter in Old Town, proximity to D.C. and other areas of interest, safe beautiful communities and high median incomes and rates of college education. Aside from all these things, Alexandria is No. 1 in a few other areas as well. Weve also got the highest rates of teen pregnancy, Chlamydia and overall HIV/AIDS rates in Northern Virginia, according to the Center for Disease Control and Virginia  Department of Health.
Its been almost 30 years since HIV/AIDS was first discovered. In that time, medical advances include the mapping of the human genome, the development of genetically engineered drugs that have reduced deaths from heart disease by 40 percent and stem cell research to reverse or halt genetic diseases. Not to mention the countless advances in technologyincluding the Internet, laptops, MRIs, etc. It would seem that all this progress has overshadowed the HIV/AIDS epidemic that has claimed the lives of more than 60 million people.
A completely preventable and incurable disease is affecting millions of people, and increasingly our youth. Despite persistent misperceptions that HIV/AIDS affects only gay men and intravenous drug users, the CDC estimates about half of those newly infected in America each year are youth ages 15-24 and a quarter of Americans living with HIV/AIDS are women. Washington, D.C. is notorious for high rates of HIV/AIDS but according to the Washington AIDS Partnership, 47 percent of the Districts estimated 20,000 HIV/AIDS patients actually live in the suburbs like Alexandria. About 1 percent of Alexandrians are HIV positive or living with AIDS. And thats just counting the people that know. The CDC estimates that 21 percent of people who are positive dont know.
Well, in Alexandria, solutions start when the local government and community decide to make good on our responsibilities and invest in public health and education. Inroads began with the relocation of the Teen Wellness Center to T.C. Williams High School, but the extensive information, diagnostic, and treatment required by a health crisis of this magnitude is reflective of broader social and economic disparities and is beyond the capacity or scope of a high school clinic. It demands robust public commitment and health-care infrastructure including access to quality medicine, prevention, information and providers.
City leaders must strive to create and implement budget and policy priorities that support our common good. One place to start is adjusting our dependence on real estate revenue to fund the budget. As the budget cuts of recent years clearly shows, this can be debilitating. There are many ways that we can all contribute according to income levels and discretionary spending to the creation of a public health trust fund or public health coverage. As we begin 2011, let us seek out alternative ways to raise public revenue and meet to collectively meet the challenges of a new year.