Monday was World AIDS Day and via the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s annual HIV surveillance report, the city can be encouraged by the many positive advances made in the ongoing fight against this pernicious virus. The good news is that, in 2013, the city recorded an all-time low number of HIV diagnoses: “The city recorded 2,832 HIV diagnoses in 2013. That is a 40 percent drop since 2003… Moreover, the number of AIDS cases decreased 67 percent over the last decade.”
Yet along with this genuinely good news, comes the reminder that HIV/AIDS is still a pernicious presence in many New York communities and are particularly prevalent among the black, Latino, and low-income populations. The report reveals that over 75% of the diagnoses are among blacks and Latinos, and that certain low-income neighborhoods—Harlem, Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights—in the city are disproportionately affected. Via DNAinfo, there were 246 new cases of the disease in Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights last year, meaning almost 1 out of every 10 newly diagnosed New Yorkers are residents of those neighborhoods. And while the report reveals that a higher percentage than ever before of people living with the disease are achieving viral suppression, it also demonstrates that lower income people living with HIV/AIDS tend to succumb to the disease far more quickly than those with more economic resources.
As ever, the focus of combatting this disease must center around education and prevention and frequent, easily accessible testing for those in at-risk populations. The city offers free and confidential testing at different sites in all five boroughs (including one in Crown Heights and one in Fort Greene) and we can’t recommend enough that everyone take advantage of this service. Ignorance never was and never will be bliss.
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