State Health Department Urges Early Identification and Appropriate Treatment for HIV to Prolong a Healthy Life

ALBANY, NY, August 18, 2006 - The State Health Department today emphasized the importance of early identification and treatment of HIV and recognizes the progress and challenges we face in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

"The good news is that the quality of life for many living with HIV and AIDS has dramatically improved through medical advances and preventative education and activities," said Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr. P.H., "But there are many challenges that still face us, one of which includes the importance of knowing your HIV status."

The importance of early identification of HIV, as well as appropriate and ongoing treatment, cannot be overemphasized. With early detection, many of those living with HIV and AIDS will be able to continue living a long and productive life. In 2004 there were over 1,000 people in New York State who were undiagnosed until the disease had already progressed from HIV to AIDS. Early detection and immediate care is linked to a far better health outcome.

There have been many successful outcomes through treatment advances and preventative education, including:

  • Between 1991 and 2005 the percentage of U.S. high school students engaging in HIV-related sexual risk behaviors decreased 13 percent;
  • Mother-to-child HIV transmission in New York State has been dramatically reduced from 10.9 percent in 1997 to 2.8 percent in 2004;
  • HIV prevalence among injection drug users in New York City declined from 54 percent to 13 percent between 1990 and 2001; and
  • New and improved technology has made HIV testing easier and faster. Test results can be obtained in as little as twenty minutes.

Despite the successful developments in the fight against AIDS and HIV, there are still many facts that illustrate the need for increased early detection and appropriate treatment for HIV, including:

  • New York is home to six percent of the nation's population and 17 percent of the State's population living with AIDS. In 2004 over 4,000 people were diagnosed with AIDS and over 3,600 were diagnosed with HIV in New York State.
  • In New York City, the number and proportion of new diagnoses of HIV infection in men grew during the first six months of 2005 - the first time we've seen an increase since 2001.
  • While many people living with HIV are aware of the harmful health effects of unsafe sex, a significant number still have unprotected sex.
  • In 2002, HIV infection was the leading cause of death for African American women between the ages of 25 and 34.

Counseling and Testing for HIV is also vitally important. Early detection of HIV allows people to begin treatment sooner – living a longer healthier life. The first step to good health is to be tested. If you are infected, learn about personal actions that can reduce the risk of HIV transmission to others.

HIV testing may be confidential or anonymous. With confidential testing, HIV counseling and testing information is recorded in the patient's medical record. In addition, anonymous testing does not link an individual with the test request or the results.

HIV testing is possible using blood, oral fluid, or urine. A test that returns a positive result, using either blood or oral fluid must be confirmed with a follow-up test called a Western Blot. New technology has resulted in rapid HIV tests that can provide a result in as little as twenty minutes.

Information on where to get tested can be obtained by calling 1-800-541-AIDS or by visiting the State Health Department Website.