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December 1, 2010
MAYOR BLOOMBERG COMMEMORATES WORLD AIDS DAY AND LAUNCHES ‘BROOKLYN KNOWS’ VOLUNTARY HIV TESTING INITIATIVE
New Brooklyn Effort will Build on Successful Bronx Testing Program
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced an ambitious new initiative in New York City’s fight against HIV/AIDS. In a morning commemoration of World AIDS Day, the Mayor officially launched Brooklyn Knows, a community-based testing effort that aims to help a half-million Brooklyn residents learn their HIV status over the next four years, and highlighted the city’s leadership to date in making HIV testing a routine part of health care. The Mayor was joined at the Brooklyn Public Library by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, and awardees who accepted a proclamation and individual certificates for their extraordinary work in helping New York City combat the epidemic: Dr. Leonard Berkowitz, Medical Director of the PATH (Program for AIDS Treatment and Health) Center; Elaine Greeley, Executive Director of Brooklyn AIDS Task Force; Dr. Luis Freddy Molano, Assistant Vice President for HIV Programs at the Community Healthcare Network; and Dr. David Holson, Director of Emergency Medicine at Queens Hospital Center.
“The progress we’ve seen is inspiring, but we still have a long way to go,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Innovative, nationally-recognized programs like The Bronx Knows – and now Brooklyn Knows – are two of the City’s many efforts to ensure that every New Yorker has access to an HIV test. If you haven’t had an HIV test, today is the perfect day to go and get one. Not only should the Bronx and Brooklyn know, but all New Yorkers should know.”
“Our city has long led the charge in making testing a routine part of a patient’s health care and this year our public hospitals have tested an impressive 190,000 people,” said Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs. “The City has been at the forefront of making HIV testing accessible through efforts like The Bronx Knows and now Brooklyn Knows. And New York State is paving the way forward by requiring most medical providers to offer voluntary HIV tests to their patients.”
“On World AIDS Day and throughout the year, it is vitally important that New Yorkers continue the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic that continues to harm our communities,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “Programs such as The Bronx Knows and Brooklyn Knows are crucial to ensuring that every New Yorker knows his or her status. An unacceptable percentage of New Yorkers do not know their status, and I commend the City’s efforts to increase the number of New Yorkers who are tested for HIV/AIDS. We must also continue the conversation about HIV/AIDS in our schools, churches and homes, because we have learned that open and honest conversations can prevent new HIV infections and reduce the stigma attached to people living with HIV/AIDS.”
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. More New Yorkers are getting tested than ever before, and those testing positive are getting more consistent care and treatment. The City’s care coordination program uses federal funds to help 28 independent centers provide comprehensive, coordinated care for people living with HIV/AIDS. These centers provide an expanded form of medical case management, striving to ensure that all patients know where, when and how to get all of the care and support services they need to stay well and protect their partners.
Despite all of this progress, more than 107,000 New Yorkers are living with HIV/AIDS, and the condition disproportionately affects black and Hispanic New Yorkers, who account for more than eight out of 10 new HIV diagnoses in New York City each year. Routine testing helps prevent new infections – both by helping HIV-positive people avoid risky sex and by enabling them to get timely treatment. Besides preserving an infected person’s health, HIV medications reduce the amount of virus in body fluids, thus cutting the risk of transmission during sex. Unfortunately, thousands of HIV-positive New Yorkers have yet to learn their status. Nearly a third of the City’s adults have never been tested – and among those who are newly diagnosed with HIV each year, nearly a fourth have gone undiagnosed for periods of a decade or more despite the damage to their own health and the risk to others.
Brooklyn Knows is New York City’s latest effort to address this challenge. The new initiative will build on the achievements of The Bronx Knows, a City-led community partnership that has helped more than 400,000 Bronx residents get tested for HIV since its launch in 2008. The Brooklyn coalition’s 52 early partners include 9 hospitals, 13 community health centers and 23 faith-based and community-based organizations, along with the Brooklyn Borough President’s office and a half-dozen local businesses and educational institutions. All of the partners will join with the Health Department and various Brooklyn youth groups to promote universal voluntary testing. Many partner organizations will provide testing in their own facilities, offering tests at no charge for those who lack health coverage. As part of the initiative, the Health Department will sponsor a borough-wide awareness campaign – “Any Body Can Get HIV” – which debuts in Brooklyn subway stations later this week. The campaign also includes a New York Knows Facebook page where friends and fans can share support and resources.
“Knowing your HIV status is vital to your health, and the health of our city,” said Commissioner Farley. “Many HIV-positive New Yorkers have yet to receive the care they need, and many are unknowingly harming their partners. By learning your HIV status, you can protect yourself and help stop this epidemic. HIV testing is now routine health care in New York State. Providers should offer it to everyone over 13 – and anyone who is sexually active should get tested regularly. If you test positive, help is available to keep you healthy. If you’re negative, you can stay that way by limiting your partners and using condoms consistently.”
Brooklyn has been heavily affected by HIV/AIDS 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 in 2008, and 1,027 were newly diagnosed. Currently, a quarter of the borough’s new diagnoses occur years after infection, when HIV is already causing illness. And surveys suggest that 40% of Brooklyn adults have yet to receive an HIV test.
“Central Brooklyn has among the highest concentrations of persons living with HIV and AIDS cases in New York City, and nearly 87 percent of Brooklynites living with HIV and AIDS are people of color,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “With several thousand more who are infected with the virus, but don’t know it, it’s critical that we get the message out to all New Yorkers: get tested! My office is proud to have worked with Mayor Bloomberg, the New York City Health Department and all of our community partners to get this program started and to help ensure that ‘Brooklyn Knows.’”
“New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation has been a vital partner in The Bronx Knows initiative,” said HHC President Alan D. Aviles. “Close to 60,000 people received HIV tests in our Bronx facilities as part of their routine health care last year. We are committed to equal success in increasing the number of people tested in Brooklyn this year – by participating in the Brooklyn Knows initiative.”
The NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation’s public hospitals made HIV testing a routine part of patients’ health care long before it became a state mandate. Since 2006, HHC has offered rapid HIV testing to patients who are hospitalized or are seeking care in emergency departments or outpatient clinics, and to residents through community outreach. Over the past five years, HHC helped 666,162 New Yorkers to learn their HIV status and linked close to 7,000 individuals with HIV to treatment. And according to the Centers for Disease Control, HHC’s HIV Testing Expansion Initiative is the largest routine HIV testing program in the United States within a single healthcare system.
Any New York City resident can get a free HIV test at one of the City’s sexually transmitted disease or tuberculosis clinics. New York State law now also requires most medical facilities to offer a voluntary HIV test to anyone ages 13-64 receiving emergency, inpatient or outpatient primary care health services, with limited exceptions. If you are not offered an HIV test the next time you visit a primary health care provider, ask for the test. New Yorkers interested in finding a testing location should call 311 or visit nyc.gov.
Stu Loeser/Jessica Scaperotti (Mayor) (212) 788-2958
Susan Craig/Celina De Leon (Health) (212) 788-5290
Ana Marengo (HHC) (212) 788-3386
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