Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden today marked progress and recognized obstacles in the fight against HIV/AIDS at a commemoration of World AIDS Day held at Gracie Mansion. The City has expanded voluntary HIV testing, introduced rapid testing, strengthened HIV education in public schools as well as providing free HIV treatment to all who need it. Over the past five years new HIV diagnoses in the city have dropped by one-third and the City's rates of HIV death have fallen by 20%. The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise."
"Over the past five years in New York City, HIV diagnoses are down one-third and AIDS deaths are down one-fifth," said Mayor Bloomberg. "That progress is important– but it is not enough. More New Yorkers need to get tested and linked to HIV care before they become sick with AIDS, and we are working to ensure that happens."
"Again last year, more than 1,000 New Yorkers first learned they were HIV positive after- they were already sick with AIDS," said Commissioner Frieden. "Opportunities for life-saving treatment were missed. And many people continue to become infected by partners who don't know their HIV status. Expanded HIV testing can stop this needless tragedy. All New Yorkers should know their HIV status, get care if they are positive, and protect themselves and their partners."
The City's Health Department has expanded syringe exchange programs to serve more injection drug users – not only to provide them with clean needles but also to offer them HIV testing, medical care and treatment for drug addiction. At the same time, the City's Health and Hospitals Corporation has expanded voluntary HIV testing in public hospitals by using HIV rapid tests and by offering HIV tests to a broader population of patients. The city's public hospitals tested 92,000 people during fiscal year 2006 – a 59% increase over the 58,000 tested a year earlier – and HHC will further expand testing to reach 150,000 patients in fiscal year 2007. Overall, 58% of New Yorkers surveyed last year said they had been tested for HIV at some time in their lives, up from 50% in 2002. Some 1.3 million reported being tested in the past 12 months alone.
Despite this progress, the AIDS epidemic is still a devastating force. Worldwide, HIV has infected some 65 million people in the past 25 years and more than 25 million have died – including nearly 95,000 New Yorkers. Today, more than 100,000 New Yorkers are living with HIV and AIDS. It is the third leading cause of premature death in the city, behind only cancer and heart disease. Nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers at high risk of HIV infection went untested last year, and a quarter have never been tested at all. Communities in Central Brooklyn, Harlem and the South Bronx continue to be hit especially hard. Citywide, black men are six times more likely to die from AIDS than white men, and black women nine times more likely to die from AIDS than white women. Hispanic men and women are about four times more likely to die from AIDS than white men and women.
The Health Department expanded testing and introduced rapid testing in clinics in 2004. Free, anonymous rapid testing is available at Health Department STD clinics in each of the five boroughs on a walk-in basis; results are available within 30 minutes. For more information about free safe, fast HIV testing, call 311 or visit nyc.gov/health. The Health Department also distributes more than 1 million free condoms citywide every month.
The Mayor and Health Commissioner were joined at the announcement by Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Miss Universe, Zuleyka Rivera. The Mayor also presented a proclamation to the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS and recognized their mobilization of clergy, elected officials, medical practitioners, business professionals, social policy experts, and the media to meet the challenge of fighting HIV/AIDS in their local communities. The Mayor also recognized four community partners for their service to New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS: the Heart Club of Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, the Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center, and the Dominican Sisters Family Health Service.