June 27, 2012– In recognition of National HIV Testing Day, the Health Department and Brooklyn Knows community partners are hosting HIV awareness and testing activities across Brooklyn today. Brooklyn has been heavily affected by HIV over the past three decades and has some of the city’s highest prevalence rates. An estimated 27,000 Brooklyn residents were living with HIV/AIDS by the end of 2010, and 904 were newly diagnosed with HIV that year. Currently, approximately one quarter of individuals newly diagnosed with HIV in Brooklyn receive an AIDS diagnoses within 31 days of learning they have HIV, meaning that they were likely infected with HIV years earlier. These individuals could have likely benefited from treatment if they had been aware of their infection. And surveys suggest that 40% of Brooklyn adults have yet to receive an HIV test.
“More than 110,000 city residents are living with HIV/AIDS and thousands don’t know they are infected,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. “We all need to know our HIV status to help stop this epidemic. The only way to know is to get tested.”
“Sadly, some of our Brooklyn neighborhoods—particularly in Central Brooklyn—have some of the highest concentrations of HIV and AIDS cases in the nation,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “And with several thousand more who are infected with HIV but don’t know it, Borough Hall is proud to partner with Brooklyn Knows to host National HIV Testing Day screenings to help get the message out to all New Yorkers: get tested!”
Brooklyn Knows is a large-scale public health initiative aimed at increasing voluntary HIV testing so that every Brooklyn resident learns his or her HIV status and has access to quality care and prevention. Modeled after the success of NYC’s first borough-wide HIV Testing Initiative, The Bronx Knows, Brooklyn Knows launched on World AIDS Day (December 1, 2010) with 52 initial community partners— including hospitals, community health centers and faith-based and community-based organizations— along with the Brooklyn Borough President’s office and a half- dozen local businesses and educational institutions. In the first year alone, Brooklyn Knows partners conducted over 115,000 HIV tests, identified over 1,200 HIV positive tests, and connected nearly 75% of those individuals with positive tests to medical care. Now in its second year, Brooklyn Knows has grown to over 90 community partners representing over 130 sites across Brooklyn, including nearly all of the borough’s hospitals.
In an effort to reach Brooklyn providers with the latest best practices in HIV testing, trained Department representatives were dispatched to reach 470 medical practices and made contact with
2,189 individuals to discuss implementing routine HIV testing at clinical sites across the heavily impacted borough. As a result of this intervention, the number of health care providers who report routinely offering HIV testing to all patients ages 13-64 increased from 15% at baseline to 68% at follow-up, a 349% increase.
On June 27 (National HIV Testing Day), community partners will be stationed at three high-traffic locations across Brooklyn offering free HIV testing from mobile testing units. Local dance teams will perform step routines with HIV-awareness chants at each site to encourage people to get tested.
How to protect yourself and others
If you choose to have sex, the safest relationship is a faithful one with one partner who is HIV/STD- negative. If you are unaware of your partner’s status, they are HIV-positive or if either of you has other sex partners, here are some ways to reduce your risk:
Never have sex without a condom. Use only latex or polyurethane condoms, with lubrication
(water-based for male condoms).
- Reduce your number of sexual partners. The more partners you have, the greater your risk for infection.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs when you have sex. You’re less likely to use a condom (or use it correctly) if your judgment is impaired.
- Know your sexual partners. Get tested together for HIV and other STDs before you have sex.
- Pick up a copy of HIV, Gay Men and Other Men who have Sex with Men, which contains the information mentioned here and much more. Call 311 or visit nyc.gov to find out where you can get a copy.
Know your HIV status – get tested!
If you have ever had sex or have ever injected drugs, even once, you should get tested for HIV. Men who have sex with men should get tested at least every six months if you’re at continued risk. Just remember that taking an HIV test does not protect you from HIV.
- Your regular health care provider can give you an HIV test. In fact, New York State law now requires primary care providers to offer voluntary HIV tests to any patient between 13 and 64 years of age, even during routine visits or if you are in the hospital (including the emergency department). If you are not offered an HIV test, ask for one.
- Free and confidential HIV tests are also available at Health Department STD clinics in all five boroughs. For clinic locations and hours, call 311 or visit nyc.gov (keyword HIV testing). The clinics will serve you regardless of your immigration or insurance status.
Get tested for other STDs
If a sexually transmitted disease (STD) causes breaks or sores in your skin, it can increase your risk of getting or transmitting HIV. STDs can also weaken your immune system, making you more likely to become infected with HIV if you’re exposed.
Condoms: Still the Best Protection
Using a condom every time you have anal, vaginal or oral sex protects you and your partners from getting HIV and other STDs, such as syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital herpes, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
The Health Department offers free male NYC Condoms, lubricant, FC2 (also called 'female') condoms and alternative male condoms (different sizes, textures and flavors) at over 3,500 venues around New York City. For more information, call 311, go to nyc.gov (keyword condoms), join the discussion on the NYC Condom Facebook page (www.facebook.com/NYCCondom), or download the NYC Condom Finder application on your Android, BlackBerry, iPhone or Windows Phone.