|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 29, 2008
Speaker Quinn Announces Rapid HIV Testing Expansion
New partnership will deliver tens of thousands of testing kits to underserved communities
City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, New York City's Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) and OraSure Technologies today announced a public-private partnership that will expand the availability of rapid HIV tests to tens of thousands of New Yorkers. This new partnership, mentioned in the Speaker's State of the City speech last month, provides needed assistance to help the City move forward in continuing to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Speaker was joined by Reverend Calvin O. Butts, III, pastor of the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church; Douglas Michels, President and CEO of OraSure Technologies; and LaRay Brown, HHC's Senior Vice President for Corporate Planning.
New York City is the HIV/AIDS epicenter of the country. HHC, the largest municipal heath care system in the country, is a demonstrated leader in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS and has a record of expanding HIV rapid testing. HHC increased HIV testing by 50% and tested more than 92,000 patients in fiscal year 2006. During fiscal year 2007, HHC achieved another 45% increase and tested roughly 134,000 patients. HHC expects to test about 150,000 patients in fiscal year 2008 and more than 160,000 patients in fiscal year 2009.
The collaboration between the City and OraSure will enable a significant increase in testing, to tens of thousands more New Yorkers without the need for additional city funding. This investment is part of an ongoing relationship with HHC and will go towards HHC's continuing expansion of rapid HIV testing.
The partnership with OraSure will enhance HHC's current efforts to expand testing to more New Yorkers. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), prior to the introduction of rapid testing, approximately one third of those tested for HIV in public health clinics never returned for their results. With rapid testing, approximately 99% of results are delivered, and those who test positive are immediately linked to care. Over the past two years, HHC has identified and linked to care more than 3,000 patients who were HIV positive and did not know it. That means a better long-term prognosis for those patients as well as a reduction in the likelihood of transmission of the HIV virus to others.
“HIV is still a crisis in our City, and the rise in HIV rates among Black and Hispanic youth is particularly alarming,” said Speaker Quinn. “But even more alarming is the number of New York City residents that don't even know their HIV status. This partnership will allow us to deliver rapid HIV tests to the communities that are the hardest hit. Even in financially difficult times, the government must work to find ways to provide needed services to our residents. When we increase the availability of testing, we will increase the numbers of early detections, one of the most important aspects of fighting this devastating illness.”
New York City has been fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic for over two decades, but is still the national epicenter of the HIV/AIDS crisis with the highest number of AIDS diagnoses in the country. Among people under 65, HIV is the third leading cause of death in NYC. From 2005-2006, HIV diagnoses dropped citywide by 5%. However, the rate of new HIV diagnoses is increasing in some communities, especially communities of color, among youth and men who have sex with men. New diagnoses among males and females aged 13-29, increased by 6%. More than 80% of HIV diagnoses among these males and 90% among these females are of black or Hispanic youth.
“Testing is a critical component of HIV prevention and we are thrilled to be collaborating with the City of New York and the City's Health and Hospitals Corporation to help expand the availability of rapid HIV testing. This effort is aggressive and comprehensive and we commend the City and HHC for their strong leadership,” said Michels. “OraQuick ADVANCE ® is ideally suited for wide scale testing initiatives such as this program because of its ease of use, its oral fluid capability, its ability to detect HIV-1 and HIV-2, and most importantly, its rapid testing technology that provides results in just twenty minutes, enabling HIV positive individuals to quickly seek appropriate counseling and treatment.”
OraSure is the manufacturer of the first and only FDA approved rapid oral fluid HIV test with a record of success with wide scale testing programs across the country.
“We are grateful to Speaker Quinn for her continued investment in HHC's HIV testing initiative and to OraSure for their willingness to partner with HHC,” said Vice President Brown. “We've dramatically increased our HIV/AIDS screening by offering HIV tests to patients in our emergency rooms and in many inpatient units and clinics. We're now reaching more teens and young adults - the age group in which half of all new HIV infections occur. By making testing available in as many settings as possible and as a routine medical screening, we can help to reduce the stigma associated with this disease and reach more New Yorkers who may be HIV positive and not know it. That is why we've committed to further expansion of our testing program to reach 160,000 patients in fiscal year 2009.”
“This expansion of rapid HIV tests is a great success for the community and will have a significant impact. We must continue to fight for the resources necessary to take preventative health measures in addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” said Council Member Inez Dickens.
Reverend Calvin O. Butts, III, who is also Chairman of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS said, “It is a daunting fact that HIV/AIDS has grown to pandemic proportions in communities of color, particularly among our young people. Together with fellow clergy, I have been diligently working to educate young men and women about this deadly virus, and encourage them to get tested. I commend Speaker Quinn for coordinating this important partnership that will expand rapid HIV/AIDS testing for Harlem's vast constituency, and believe that the testing provided by HHC will go a long way toward raising awareness and reducing the spread of this illness. My hope is that the unique alliance between OraSure and the HHC will serve as a national model for HIV testing programs in other underserved communities throughout the country.”
Since FY 05, the City Council has allocated funding to HHC to provide hundreds of thousands of HIV rapid tests to public health facilities throughout the five boroughs.