State Health Commissioner Novello Announces Enhanced HIV/AIDS Public Education and Awareness Campaign

ALBANY, February 24, 2005 — State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H., today announced the expansion of New York State's HIV/AIDS Public Awareness and Education campaign to help combat the potential spread of HIV and further protect New Yorkers from the virus that causes AIDS.

Dr. Novello said, "In light of recent reports of a drug-resistant, rapidly progressive strain of HIV in New York City, we must continue to reinforce critical HIV prevention messages to help New Yorkers protect themselves. Although, at this point, this is the only case of its kind we know of, it provides us with an opportunity to reaffirm our approach to combating the virus, protecting confidentiality of patients and easing any concerns among New Yorkers."

This week, Dr. Novello sent letters to HIV/AIDS service providers and physicians statewide highlighting key public health messages and the importance of garnering the participation of people with HIV in aiding New York in this effort. The Department is examining other potential responses to the current situation, including examining ways to better monitor HIV drug-resistant strains in the population and further strengthening access to HIV counseling and testing.

Earlier this month, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported a highly resistant strain of rapidly progressive HIV diagnosed in a New York City resident. The patient is a male in his mid-40s who reported multiple male sex partners and unprotected sex, often while using crystal methamphetamine.

At the direction of Governor George E. Pataki, the State Health Department is expanding its $2.2 million HIV/AIDS marketing and media campaign to run additional HIV counseling and testing promotions in New York City, Long Island and Buffalo. The "Project Wave" television announcements, which will begin running shortly, focus on HIV prevention and the importance of people knowing their HIV status. The Department will spend up to an additional $450,000 on this important television advertising initiative.

The "Project Wave" awareness campaign focuses on the importance of knowing one's HIV status and getting tested. The campaign features television promotions with national celebrities, including Alicia Keys.

The initiatives announced today build on the public awareness efforts now underway in New York. The Department is currently running a prevention campaign called "HIV Stops with Me." This social marketing campaign uses community role models to promote the importance of people with HIV taking precautions to prevent transmitting the virus to others. This prevention campaign includes the use of bus and subway advertisements in New York City and Buffalo.

New York State has some of the strongest confidentiality protections in place for HIV in the nation. "No one should be afraid to get tested for HIV," Dr. Novello said. "Remember, this virus knows no racial, ethnic, age or gender boundaries. It is what you do, not who you are, that puts you at risk for HIV."

Individuals who wish to get tested may choose to do so anonymously or confidentially. With anonymous testing, a person does not provide his or her name, but instead receives an identifying number. Anonymous testing is available through many local health departments and community-based sites throughout the state. Confidential testing is also available in which patients provide their names to health care providers.

HIV testing is especially important for pregnant women, because medicine is available that can reduce the risk of maternal/child HIV transmission. Mothers who know they are HIV positive also will be advised against breast-feeding.

Under the Governor's leadership, New York has achieved a dramatic 78 percent decline in the number of newborns statewide who are infected with HIV. The results are derived from a recent State Health Department study of infants born between 1997 and 2002. In addition, New York has the largest AIDS Drug Assistance Program in the nation, which ensures that all HIV infected persons have access to the most medically advanced and effective medications that help prolong and improve their quality of life.

The State Health Department urges individuals to get tested for HIV if they:

  • Had unprotected sex, especially with someone who has injected drugs;
  • Shared needles for drug use, body piercing or tattooing;
  • Had a sexually transmitted disease (STD); and/or
  • Have engaged in sex with multiple partners.

People who wish to be tested for HIV/AIDS may contact:

For additional information please visit the State Health Department's web site at: www.health.ny.gov.

Letters