New York State Department of Health to Host World AIDS Day Event

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 6, 2016) – The New York State Department of Health today hosted a special observance of World AIDS Day, including an awards ceremony for individuals and organizations dedicated to ending the epidemic. The event was held at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The goal of World AIDS Day is to increase awareness of the disease, promote prevention, remember those lost, and show support for individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Sections of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display in the Convention Center during the event.

Students from 18 schools throughout New York State attended the event to receive education on how to prevent HIV and sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Young adult peer leaders encouraged students to make healthy life choices, avoid risky behaviors and "Get Tested. Stay Safe. End AIDS."

"Educating young New Yorkers about HIV prevention is key to protecting them and to reducing the stigma and discrimination that still surrounds HIV/AIDS," said Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker. "Young people are essential to achieving New York State's goals to end the epidemic by the end of 2020. We cannot achieve our goals without them."

More than 200,000 New Yorkers have been diagnosed with AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic, and almost 113,000 are currently living with diagnosed HIV/AIDS.

The Governor's Ending the Epidemic initiative aims to reduce new HIV infections to 750 per year from the current 3,000 by the end of 2020. For the first time in state history, there were no cases of mother to child HIV transmission for an 18 month period from September 2014 to February 2016. New York leads the nation in the percentage of at-risk individuals on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

Last week the Governor signed landmark legislation that will bring us closer to that goal by increasing access to testing and treatment for individuals living with HIV/AIDS. The legislation makes it easier for more people to get tested for HIV and STDs, to get post-exposure prophylaxis at the pharmacy, and expands research opportunities by making data more accessible.

The Governor also announced a series of new initiatives that will build on this progress by targeting groups at greater risk of HIV transmission, promoting viral suppression, and ensuring teens have the right to obtain life-saving HIV treatment and preventive services and safeguarding the confidentiality of such care.

At today's event, the New York State Department of Health honored individuals from across the state for their commitment and contribution to ending the epidemic. This year's honorees are:

This award recognizes leadership in promoting improvements in HIV health, LGBT health, drug user health, youth sexual health, and the prevention and treatment of Hepatitis C and STDs.

2016 World AIDS Day Commissioner's Special Recognition Awardees

  • Amida Care Health Services Hepatitis C Team
  • Erin Bortel
  • Michael Deeb
  • Family Planning of South Central New York, Inc.
  • Damon Jacobs
  • Iya Sojourner McCauley
  • Harish Moorjani, MD
  • Opioid Overdose Prevention "Unrecognized Heroes"
  • The Osbourne Association
  • Fernando Soto
  • Linda Squires
  • START Treatment & Recovery Centers
  • John Steever, MD & Matthew Oransky, Ph.D.
  • Justin Toro
  • Assunta Ventresca, RN, MSN
  • Dr. Rodney L. Wright, MD, MS, FACOG

The Department will present the Linda Laubenstein Award to physicians who, in addition to providing the highest quality of clinical care for people with HIV/AIDS, are distinguished by their compassionate manner and wholehearted involvement in the effort to provide comprehensive care for persons with HIV/AIDS.

The Dr. Linda Laubenstein HIV Clinical Excellence Award

  • James F. Braun, DO, Editor-in-Chief, The Physicians' Research Network
  • Samuel T. Merrick, MD, New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center

The following individuals are recognized for their commitment and participation in providing HIV and STD prevention education to students attending the 2016 World AIDS Day education sessions, driving home HIV and STD prevention messages.

Consumer Advisory Committee/Young Adult Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC/YACAC)

  • Adrian Centeno
  • Jahlove Serrano

HIV Stops with Me Spokesmodels

  • Katrina Balovlenkov
  • Tony Chase
  • Marcus May
  • Salvatore A. Pierre
  • Joel Torres

Youth Health Advocate Program (YHAP)

  • Uriel Loman
  • Tyler Palmer
  • Cheyanne Velasquez

Young Adult Advisory Group (YAAG)

  • Skye Adrian
  • Mike Deeb
  • Christopher Griffin
  • C. Legacee Medina

Real Talk

  • Alexis Apisa
  • Miri Botts
  • Eric Bowens
  • Jayaa Dozier
  • Razmiana Joyner
  • Foster Kucij
  • Alaya Lewis-Harris
  • Thalia Maynor
  • Rolesia Nancy-Bragg
  • Mimi Turnier

The event coincides with the NYSDOH AIDS Institute's Ending the Epidemic Summiton December 6-7, 2016 at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center. The forum will share key successes as well as innovative programs, policies and research efforts to be considered moving forward. The event offers an opportunity for key stakeholders to learn from one another and discuss important efforts that are already underway.

For additional information on World AIDS Day activities, visit the NYSDOH webpage at:

For additional information on Ending the Epidemic in New York State, visit the NYSDOH webpage at: