New York State Department of Health Observes National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

In observance of the 14th annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Saturday, February 7, the New York State Department of Health is urging black New Yorkers to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS through education, testing and treatment.

"Tremendous strides have been made across New York State to reduce new HIV infections and improve access to medical care for those infected, but much work still needs to be done," said Acting New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. "This is especially true in New York's African American community. However, thanks to Governor Cuomo and the inspired work of the AIDS Institute, we are on track to defeat this terrible disease once and for all."

In June 2014, Governor Cuomo announced a three-point plan to end AIDS as an epidemic in New York State which entails decreasing new HIV infections statewide from approximately 3,000 per year to 750 per year by 2020. The plan seeks to meet its goal by emphasizing the wider availability of voluntary HIV testing to ensure undiagnosed individuals have access to care, the promotion of care retention and sustained viral load suppression, as well as improved access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for high-risk individuals.

"While HIV testing and general awareness campaigns have proven effective at reducing new HIV infections in our overall population, we need to continue improving prevention for African Americans in New York State, especially among women and young gay men," said the Department of Health's AIDS Institute Director Dan O'Connell. "By utilizing both new and time-tested strategies for fighting HIV/AIDS, Governor Cuomo's plan is truly a game changer in this effort."

According to the most recent data obtained in 2012, African Americans accounted for 42 percent of newly diagnosed HIV cases and persons living with diagnosed HIV infection in New York State, despite comprising just 16 percent of the population. Disparities are even more pronounced among black females, who, among HIV+ females, represent 61 percent of newly diagnosed cases and 54 percent of all people living with the infection. Young gay African American men are also disproportionately impacted -- despite a 41 percent decrease in New York's newly diagnosed HIV cases among all black males between 2003 and 2012, new infections actually increased 36 percent among black men who have sex with men aged 13 to 24 during this time period.

The Department of Health has a toll-free confidential AIDS Hotline (1-800-541-AIDS), where individuals can learn more about HIV and get information about free HIV testing opportunities in their communities. Additionally, the National HIV and STD Testing Resource website at:www.hivtest.orgallows a user to enter a zip code to access local testing sites in that area. Cell phone users can send a text message containing their zip code to "KNOWIT" (566948) and within seconds receive a return text message listing an HIV testing site in that area.

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