Nearly 40,000 Women in New York Living with HIV/AIDS, More Than Any Other State

Thursday is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 9, 2011) – Thursday, March 10, marks the sixth annual observance of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, focusing attention on the serious toll the epidemic has taken on women and girls. Approximately 280,000 women in the United States are living with HIV/AIDS, with more of them living in New York than any other state.

"HIV is often incorrectly perceived as a disease only of gay men and men who inject drugs," said State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H. "As the data in New York shows, this is a dangerous misconception. I strongly encourage everyone to discuss the issue of HIV with at least one woman or girl. We have a shared responsibility to protect our mothers, sisters, daughters, partners and friends."

There were 39,054 women in New York State reported living with HIV/AIDS as of December 2009, the most recent data available. Women of color make up approximately 89 percent of those cases. Most women received their diagnosis of HIV between the ages of 30 and 49, and the most significant factor associated with transmission was heterosexual contact.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's Executive Budget sustains New York's commitment to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic. HIV/AIDS funding for Aid to Localities and the AIDS Drug Assistance Program would remain level, and the budget maintains access to health care and related services for persons with HIV/AIDS.

"The earlier an HIV infection is diagnosed, the better the prospects are for maintaining an individual in good health and for preventing further transmission," said Humberto Cruz, Director of the AIDS Institute at the New York State Department of Health (DOH). "Our new HIV testing law should help get many more women tested as part of their normal health care routine. We also want all sexually active New Yorkers, including women, to be routinely screened and treated for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), since persons with STDs are much more likely to acquire or transmit HIV."

Evidence indicates that, due to delays in seeking testing, many people are diagnosed so late in the course of their HIV disease that they have already developed full blown AIDS. Approximately 31 percent of women in New York newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS receive an AIDS diagnosis at the same time or within 12 months of their initial HIV diagnosis, representing "late diagnoses."

A new law that took effect in New York State in September 2010 seeks to make HIV testing part of routine health care. Under the law, HIV testing must be offered to all persons 13 to 64 years of age who receive hospital or primary care services anywhere in the state. The offer to test must be made to inpatients, persons seeking services in emergency departments, and persons receiving primary care as an outpatient at a clinic or from a physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner or midwife.

All women should be tested for HIV, but especially those who have:

  • Had unprotected sex with multiple partners or with anyone whose HIV status is unknown;
  • Been diagnosed with or treated for hepatitis, tuberculosis, or an STD such as gonorrhea, Chlamydia, or syphilis;
  • Injected drugs or steroids or shared equipment (such as needles, syringes, and works); or
  • Exchanged sex for drugs or money.

New Yorkers who wish to schedule a free rapid HIV test may call the toll-free confidential NYS DOH AIDS hotline at 1-800-541-AIDS. Additional information about the DOH anonymous HIV counseling and testing program is available at .