February 7, 2014 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Individuals are Encouraged to Learn About the Virus, Get Tested and Treated

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb 7, 2014) – In observance of the 13th annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Friday, February 7, 2014, State Health Commissioner, Nirav R. Shah M.D., M.P.H. is urging black Americans to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS, get tested, and obtain treatment if necessary.

"Great progress has been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but we must remain vigilant in promoting healthy behaviors, HIV testing, and greater awareness of the disease," said Commissioner Shah. "Since nearly half of new HIV diagnoses are among black Americans, we must focus efforts on removing the stigma of HIV/AIDS and educate the community on the importance of testing and treatment."

New York State data for 2012 shows that health disparities related to race continue to exist in New York State. Black Americans are eight times more likely to be newly diagnosed with HIV than whites, with 48 new diagnoses per 100,000 people as compared with six per 100,000 for whites. Hispanics are also more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than whites, with 29 newly diagnosed cases per 100,000 population.

Although the number of new diagnoses is declining, black Americans remain disproportionately impacted by HIV and AIDS. For example, in 2012, for new diagnoses among men between the ages of 13 and 24, black men have the highest percentage of new diagnoses (46%) compared to Hispanics (34%). Approximately 58 percent of new diagnoses among women are black Americans.

"The key strategies for fighting HIV/AIDS are community-driven prevention efforts and good clinical care," said Dan O'Connell, director of the Department of Health's AIDS Institute. "While HIV awareness testing and treatment have proven effective to reduce infection rates in our overall population, we need to improve the results for black Americans in New York State, especially among women and young gay men. New strategies include increasing public awareness about pre-exposure prophylaxis and post exposure prophylaxis following sexual exposure to prevent transmission. We will continue to collaborate with dedicated organizations to target areas where we can make a difference."

New York will also continue to focus on efforts to identify all persons with HIV infection and assure referrals for care and treatment. New York's HIV Testing Law, requires that virtually all New Yorkers between the ages of 13 and 64 be offered the chance to learn their status when they receive primary care or a hospital-based health service. This law requires a routine conversation between the doctor and patient.

The Department of Health has a toll-free confidential AIDS Hotline (1-800-541-AIDS), where individuals can learn more about HIV and get information about free HIV testing opportunities in their communities. Additionally, the National HIV and STD Testing Resource website at: www.hivtest.org allows a user to enter a zip code to access local testing sites in that area. Cell phone users can send a text message containing their zip code to "KNOWIT" (566948) and within seconds receive a return text message listing an HIV testing site in that area.

For additional information about HIV/AIDS please visit: http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/aids/.