February 7 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

African Americans Are Encouraged to Learn About the Virus, Get Tested and Treated

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb 5, 2010) – The 10th annual observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is Sunday, Feb. 7 – a time to recognize the disproportionately heavy toll the HIV epidemic has taken on African Americans. The theme for this year's observance is "HIV/AIDS Prevention – A Choice and a Lifestyle."

"HIV/AIDS continues to be a major health concern for all New Yorkers, but especially African Americans, who account for almost half of all new HIV diagnoses," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "That's why it's so critical that all African-Americans educate themselves about HIV/AIDS, get tested, become involved in promoting awareness within their families and in their communities, and seek treatment if they are living with this virus."

Data for 2008 show that Blacks/African-Americans are 10 times more likely to be newly diagnosed with HIV than Whites, with 75.4 new diagnoses per 100,000 people as compared with 7.4 per 100,000 for Whites. Hispanics are also more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than Whites, with 40 newly diagnosed cases per 100,000 population. Overall, however, the numbers of new diagnoses are going down. New HIV diagnoses among Blacks/African-Americans have fallen from 2,813 in 2003 to 2,177 in 2008, a drop of 23 percent. In contrast, during the same period, White diagnoses fell by 9 percent and Hispanic by 16 percent.

"We are encouraged that our prevention programs are having some successes that are reflected in the fall in new diagnoses, and as a state, we are heading in the right direction," Commissioner Daines said. "Our obstetricians and prenatal care programs have encouraged HIV testing. With more than 95 percent of pregnant women being tested, infected women are now receiving effective treatment, and fewer than 2 percent of infants born to HIV-infected mothers are themselves infected. The disease burden among drug injectors has been dramatically reduced, due in large part to New York's aggressive support of expanded access to sterile syringes over the last 18 years. In these difficult fiscal times, we continue to support the nation's largest HIV prevention program, but there is still much more to be done."

"We must continue to build on the prevention programs that have proven effective in reducing new infections and conduct research to develop new prevention strategies," said Humberto Cruz, Director of DOH's AIDS Institute. "Though we are making progress in stemming the epidemic, much remains to be done. The overall decrease in new diagnoses among Blacks/African Americans is good news, but we are seeing an increase in new cases among young Black/African-American men, and Black/African American women represent 61 percent of all new diagnoses among women. We must continue to ensure our prevention efforts are targeted to where the cases are."