HIV diagnosis falls to a record low in NYC, finds report

Reporting of new cases of HIV started in 2001 and since then there has been a steady rise and stability of numbers. In 2018 for the first time in nearly two decades, researchers have reported number of new cases to be below 2,000 over the year. This is a record 67 percent decline in the numbers since 2001, says the report. Further the decline in the numbers has been seen in nearly all age groups between 2017 and 2018.

These results were released in the 2018 HIV Surveillance Annual Report that shows that in 2018 there were 1,917 new cases of HIV in New York City in 2018. In 2017 there had been 2,157 new cases. Thus the decline from 2017 was 11 percent and the decline from 2001 since the survey began was 67 percent says the report (over 4,000 cases had been reported in 2001).

Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, in his statement said, “We take a data-driven, sex-positive approach to HIV prevention that is firmly grounded in equity—and we are proving that it works. New York City can end the epidemic if we continue to fight against the stigma, bias and discrimination that continue to be significant drivers of HIV, particularly among Black and Latino men who have sex with men.”

Dr. Oni Blackstock, Assistant Commissioner for the Health Department’s Bureau of HIV also said, “I am thrilled to see declines in annual new HIV diagnoses among nearly all groups, and ever-increasing numbers of New Yorkers with HIV being linked to care and achieving viral suppression. These data show the power of our dynamic, forward-thinking approach to ending the epidemic, and what we can achieve when community and government come together to prioritize science over stigma and sex-positivity over shame. But there is still work to do. Until we see equitable progress among New Yorkers from all walks of life, we must double down on our efforts to fight the institutional racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of stigma that put people at greater risk of HIV infection and, for people with HIV, put care and treatment further out of reach. We cannot end the epidemic among New Yorkers without ending the epidemic among all New Yorkers.”

Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Raul Perea-Henze added in his statement, “The historic decline in the number of new HIV diagnoses marks another milestone in our decades-long fight against the epidemic in New York City. This progress is the result of government working in partnership with all communities to improve access to prevention and treatment, as called for in the innovative approach of the de Blasio administration. While we have come a long way, and stand within sight of our goal to end the epidemic by 2020, we must continue to accelerate our efforts to reach and empower all New Yorkers affected by HIV, in honor of those we have lost and those who continue to fight every day.”

The report reveals that there has been a reduction in the number of new cases among specific populations including Black, Latino and also among White, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Native Americans. In both age groups – 0 to 49 years and 60 years and above, similar decline has been knotted. The decline in the numbers was similar among people residing in all the five boroughs of NYC says the report.

The report also reveals that there has been a total decline in the number of HIV positive persons over the years in NYC. The decline is 16 percent since 2017 and 41 percent since 2014 says the 2018 report. The aim of therapy is to suppress the viral load in the blood. Persons on antiretroviral therapy are in a viral suppression mode. This report shows that in 2014 81 percent of the HIV positive individuals were virally suppressed. In 2018 the viral suppressed individuals were 87 percent. These numbers came from the “Ending the Epidemic Metric”. Persons who are virally suppressed are also incapable of transmitting the infection to others via unprotected sex, say experts. These high numbers of virally suppressed individuals is thus an encouraging finding says the report.

NYC has been on the path to ending the HIV epidemic since Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2015 announced the “NYC Ending the Epidemic Plan” and sanctioned an annual investment of $23 million so that more and more of the population has access to HIV prevention services and also persons with HIV get access to adequate treatment for HIV, methods for looking at the modes of transmission of the infection. To implement the plan, NYC reworked eight of its Sexual Health Clinics to provide low to no-cost detection of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIC and also provision of emergency medications for Post-exposure prophylaxis, Pre-exposure prophylaxis, JumpstART (immediate initiation of HIV treatment with navigation to longer-term care), counselling for patients etc. For all individuals aged 12 years and above irrespective of their insurance coverage, financial condition, immigration status, the services are made accessible at the Sexual Health Clinics.

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said, “This historic drop in new HIV cases is the result of the collective efforts of activists, public health officials and everyday New Yorkers who have sought to end the epidemic. This is truly something to celebrate, but we have so much work to do to further reduce HIV rates in New York City and make sure those who have the disease get adequate care. The City Council will continue to fight for every New Yorker affected by this disease. I look forward to the day when there are zero new diagnoses.” Senator Brad Hoylman also said, “More than 100,000 New Yorkers have tragically died because of HIV/AIDS—but in this generation, we have the opportunity to end this epidemic once and for all. It’s so exciting to see New York City’s policies making a difference, with new HIV diagnoses in 2018 down by 67% since 2001. There’s more work to do to finally end this epidemic, which is why I’m proud to carry legislation in the New York State Senate that requires insurers to cover PrEP and PEP, medications that are proven to reduce the likelihood of infection.”

Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried said, “New York City continues to be a national and international leader in the fight to end AIDS and HIV. With the annual number of new HIV diagnoses in the city falling below 2,000 for the first time ever – and with ever more of those receiving HIV medical care succeeding in suppressing the virus – New York is on a path to ending the HIV epidemic. The City’s success shows how much we can do if we engage communities, make extensive outreach to historically marginalized and underserved New Yorkers, expand access to care and prevention efforts, and ensure that medications are affordable.”

Matthew Lesieur, Community Co-Chair of the HIV Health and Human Services Planning Council of New York, and Executive Director of iHealth added, “New York City continues to show the nation and the world what can be achieved when the community and government work in partnership towards the goal of ending the HIV epidemic. I am pleased to see that the number of new infections continues to decline, even as the federal government continues to cut Ryan White funding for New York City and Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester Counties. I can only imagine what we could accomplish if the federal government made the same commitment of resources that New York has.”

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