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. (February 6, 2012) – The 12th annual observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is Tuesday, Feb. 7 – a time to recognize the disproportionately heavy toll the HIV epidemic has taken on African Americans and to encourage people to get educated, get tested, get involved and get treated.

"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 Nirav Shah, M.D., M.P.H. "While we have made great strides in transforming HIV from an almost universally fatal disease to a treatable chronic condition, there is still much work to be done."

New York State data for 2010 show that Blacks/African-Americans are nine times more likely to be newly diagnosed with HIV than Whites, with 60.8 new diagnoses per 100,000 people as compared with 6.8 per 100,000 for Whites. Hispanics are also more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than Whites, with 33.0 newly diagnosed cases per 100,000 people.

However, overall, Commissioner Shah noted that the numbers of new HIV diagnoses are going down. "Our prevention programs are succeeding, as reflected by fewer new HIV diagnoses in general, and specifically, among African Americans and Hispanics," Commissioner Shah said.

New HIV diagnoses among Blacks/African-Americans fell from 2,501 in 2004 to 1,776 in 2010, a drop of 29 percent. Also, during the same period, diagnoses among Whites fell by 13 percent and among Hispanics by 22 percent.

Although the number of new diagnoses is dropping, disparities continue. Last year in New York there was an increase in new cases among Black/African-American men between the ages of 20 and 24, and of all new diagnoses among women, 61 percent were Black/African Americans.

"We must continue to build on the prevention and care programs that have proven effective at reducing infections and treating those who have HIV," said Humberto Cruz, Director of the State Health Department's' AIDS Institute. "The overall decrease in new diagnoses among Blacks/African Americans is good news, but the increase in young Black/African American men is concerning. Our prevention efforts must always be targeted to where the cases are."

New York will also continue to focus on efforts to identify all persons with HIV infection and ensure 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 get care through a hospital-based health service. This law encourages a routine HIV conversation between the doctor and patient – similar to a routine conversation that would take place between a doctor and a patient regarding the patient's blood pressure status.

To focus on ongoing health disparities and the need to take action to prevent them, the State Health Department, in collaboration with other government and community partners, will host a symposium in New York City, entitled African American Symposium: Moving Beyond Health Disparity & Achieving Health Equity: From Strategy To Action. This symposium will be held on February 9 and will provide an opportunity to discuss, learn about, and develop strategies to address racial and ethnic health disparities within African American communities in New York State and improve health outcomes for all.

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