|Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Dr. Bernard M. Branson of the CDC and HHC President Alan D. Aviles|
The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation’s 30 year leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS culminated in a special World AIDS Day recognition by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to recognize a major milestone by the public hospitals: one million unique New Yorkers tested for HIV. HHC's routine HIV testing program is now considered the largest of its kind by any single healthcare system in the U.S.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and HHC President Alan D. Aviles accepted the special honor at a Gracie Mansion ceremony on Dec. 1 from Dr. Bernard M. Branson of the CDC Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention in recognition of HHC‘s tremendous dedication to combating the spread of HIV/AIDS and for completing HIV/AIDS tests on more than one million adolescent and adult patients.
As the city’s largest provider of HIV primary care, HHC hospitals and health centers began making HIV testing part of routine medical care for patients ages 13 to 64 starting in 2005 by providing testing beyond the traditional HIV/AIDS and prenatal clinics to reach patients in emergency rooms, in-patient units, and out-patient clinics as well as non-traditional settings like bathhouses and public health fairs.
“Testing is a critical step in a comprehensive strategy to prevent and treat HIV,” said HHC President Aviles. “By making voluntary testing available in as many settings as possible, and offering it as a routine medical screening, we are helping New Yorkers who are negative to stay negative and helping those who are positive to access the medical care they need and lessen the risk for transmission to others.”
In Fiscal Year 2011 alone, HHC facilities provided tests to 195,516 persons -- more than three times the number of tests done just six years before. Under the HIV testing initiative, HHC diagnosed 10,600 HIV positive individuals and linked and retained thousands in HIV primary care, improving their health and the health of the community.
“We are extremely proud to have been at the forefront of incorporating HIV screening into routine medical care almost a year before the CDC recommended routine testing and nearly five years before New York State amended its laws to require health care providers to offer patients a voluntary HIV test,” said Terry Hamilton, HHC Director of HIV Services.
According to Hamilton, HHC hospitals faced a serious challenge as they gave more and more rapid HIV tests to patients.
“We had to simultaneously improve our ability to efficiently educate patients before and after each test,” noted Hamilton. “That urgency inspired very creative approaches and the use of innovative tools like an educational video on an interactive personal touch screen computer. This kind of creativity and inserting HIV testing within the systems of the health care visit helped reduce the total time for each patient from 2 hours to about 30 minutes. It also freed our counselors and providers to focus on giving support to the HIV positive patients who need them most.”
Since 2002, the number of New Yorkers diagnosed with HIV each year has fallen by a quarter to about 3,800, and annual death toll from HIV/AIDS is down by more than a third –to 1,073 deaths in 2008. Despite progress in the area of testing and treatment, more than 107,000 New Yorkers are living with HIV/AIDS and nearly a third of the City’s adults have never been tested.
HHC’s 11 acute care hospitals are Designated AIDS Centers. All HHC hospitals, diagnostic and treatment centers, and clinics offer specialized HIV care to all New Yorkers, regardless of ability to pay or immigration status. In addition, HHC’s health insurance plan, MetroPlus, rated the number 1 HMO in New York State has the state’s largest HIV Special Needs Plan that provides comprehensive and targeted medical and support services to people facing HIV/AIDS.