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The HIV infection rate for heterosexual African American women in the District’s poorest neighborhoods nearly doubled in two years, from 6.3 percent to 12.1 percent, according to a study released Wednesday by the D.C. Department of Health.

The large increase reflects wider testing of people who were previously unaware of their status and possibly a still-rising rate of new infections in that high-risk group, officials said.

The disease remains at epidemic levels in Washington. In releasing the study, District health officials announced new recommendations for doctors and other health-care providers to start treatment immediately for all people newly diagnosed with HIV instead of waiting for evidence that someone’s immune system has been severely damaged.

READ MORE: Washington Post