State Health Commissioner Urges Prevention of HIV/AIDS in Caribbean-American Communities

Today is National Caribbean-American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Albany, N.Y. (June 8, 2011)– Noting that one in eight New Yorkers with HIV/AIDS is Caribbean-American, New York State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H. today urged heightened awareness and prevention of HIV/AIDS as New York observes National Caribbean-American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

"HIV infection rates in the Caribbean are the highest in the world outside of Africa, and there has been a significant migration of people from the Caribbean to the United States over the last 20 years," said Commissioner Shah. "In working with organizations at the community level, we must focus our work here in New York State on preventing new infections and ensuring that all individuals with HIV know their status and get treatment early."

Currently, approximately 127,000 New Yorkers are living with diagnosed HIV infection.

Humberto Cruz, director of the New York State Health Department's AIDS Institute, said, "The impact of HIV on Caribbean-Americans is particularly devastating because many diagnoses in this population are made late in the stages of HIV infection."

During the years 2007-2009, 38 percent of persons diagnosed with HIV in New York State went on to develop AIDS within one year.

"These late diagnoses generally mean years of missed opportunities to link individuals to care and to prevent new infections," said Cruz. He urged Caribbean-Americans to take advantage of programs funded by the AIDS Institute around the state that provide HIV prevention, support and treatment targeted to Caribbean-American communities.

Caribbean-Americans living with HIV in New York State are diverse, with the largest numbers from Puerto Rico (4,537), followed by Haiti (2,031), the Dominican Republic (1,706), Jamaica (1,167), Trinidad and Tobago (743), Cuba (352), and Barbados (137). Approximately one-third of the cases among Caribbean-Americans are women, 84 percent live in New York City, and almost half are 50 years of age or older.

For more information about HIV/AIDS, call the New York State HIV/AIDS Hotline at 1-800-541-AIDS (Spanish, 1-800-233-SIDA).