December 2, 2015

Press Release # 058-15
Wednesday, December 2, 2015

MEDIA CONTACT: (347) 396-4177
Christopher Miller/Julien Martinez:

Health Department Co-Hosts Second Annual R.E.D. (Remembering-Empowering-Doing) Ball to Recognize World Aids Day

Free HIV Testing, Condoms, and Information on HIV Prevention offered at the RED Ball

#PlaySafe Kits Distributed to Attendees

December 2, 2015 – The Health Department today joined Project Speak Out Loud and Symba McQueen in hosting the second annual RED (Remembering-Empowering-Doing) Ball at Metropolitan Pavilion West. Inspired by New York City’s House Ballroom culture, the RED Ball featured free HIV testing, live performances, information on HIV prevention and treatment, and appearances by House and Ballroom legends. Attendees also participated in a World AIDS Day-themed fashion show/runaway competition, styled by Symba McQueen. The categories included, Victorian Fashion, Gender and Sexuality, Music Hall, Variety Theater, Marionettes, and Let Them Eat Cake. Winners of each category were chosen by a panel of judges.

“I am proud to join our community partners and Kiki royalty for our second annual Remembering, Empowering, and Doing, or RED, Ball,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett . “Although HIV diagnoses in New York City are at a new low, we must focus on New Yorkers disproportionately affected by HIV, including the Black, Hispanic, and transgender communities. The Kiki scene is a place for young members of the community to express themselves and receive the support they need at every level. Tonight we honor the memory of those brave New Yorkers who fought against HIV, and celebrate our work to make sure that we will achieve the goal of making HIV history in NYC.”

“The RED Ball is an important new tradition in NYC that commemorates World AIDS Day the way New York should, fiercely,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, Assistant Commissioner for the Health Department’s Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control . “The RED Ball continues the tradition described in the iconic song by Malcolm Mclaren, ‘Deep in Vogue’ that featured Willi Ninja, a House Community Legend we lost to AIDS. ‘Sometimes on a legendary night, when the crowd is calling down the spirits. Listen, and you will hear the footsteps of all the houses that walked there before.’ The past mothers and fathers of the houses we commemorate have helped to teach us how to courageously change the future and bring an end to AIDS in NYC with love, respect, and beauty.”

"PSOL is thrilled to be joining forces with the Health Department this year for our annual ball commemorating World AIDS Day,” said a spokesperson from Project Speak Out Loud (PSOL) . “The House and Ballroom scenes have historically been crucial allies in the fight to end the HIV epidemic, and we are committed to continuing to engage LGBTQ people with prevention-focused events."

HIV/AIDS Surveillance Data

The Health Department’s most recent surveillance data report includes graphic trends in HIV diagnoses for key populations, maps displaying the distribution of HIV in NYC, and measures of key outcomes such as linkage to care, viral suppression, and mortality among people with HIV.
The Health Department is featuring a section on HIV among transgender New Yorkers, data on cigarette smoking rates among people with HIV compared with rates among the general NYC population, and measures of sexual risk behaviors among men and women with HIV. Overall, the report shows continued progress in reducing HIV diagnoses and deaths in NYC, in line with key goals of the state’s Ending the AIDS Epidemic initiative.

For the first time ever, the Health Department’s surveillance report features information on HIV/AIDS among transgender New Yorkers. In 2014, 49 transgender people were diagnosed with HIV, and 15 were diagnosed with AIDS. From 2010 to 2014, a total of 234 transgender people were diagnosed with HIV. Compared to all people diagnosed with HIV in NYC from 2010 to 2014, transgender people diagnosed with HIV were more likely to be Black or Hispanic (90 and 77 percent respectively).

HIV and AIDS diagnoses, prevalence, care outcomes, and survival rates continue to disproportionately affect certain populations. In 2014, people newly diagnosed with HIV in NYC were predominantly male, Black or Hispanic, young, men who have sex with men (MSM), or people living in relatively high-poverty areas. HIV diagnosis rates continue to be strikingly high among Black and Hispanic men and women relative to other racial/ethnic groups. The majority of transgender people newly diagnosed with HIV in 2014 were young people of color. The proportion of people in HIV care who achieved viral suppression was lower among women, Blacks and Hispanics, and younger people with HIV. Short-term survival after HIV diagnosis was lowest for Blacks and Asian/Pacific Islanders.

#PLAYSURE Media Campaign

The Health Department released a new HIV and STI prevention campaign, #PlaySure. “#PlaySure” was developed to send one sex-positive and empowering message to all New Yorkers regardless of their HIV status. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (known as PrEP), HIV treatment, and the NYC Condom together create a toolkit for HIV prevention and sexual health. To #PlaySure means setting aside fear, and replacing it with communication, honesty, and the tools we know can stop HIV and STIs. The goal of this campaign is to reach all New Yorkers where they’re at and let them choose the HIV and STI prevention tools that work for them, regardless of their HIV status.

To complement the new campaign, the Health Department also developed an innovative safer sex tool, the #PlaySafe kit. This kit holds everything New Yorkers need to #PlaySure—it holds condoms, lube, and the prevention pill of your choice (PrEP, HIV meds, or birth control). The goal was to allow users to design the safer sex kit that fit their lifestyle and needs. These kits will be available for free at participating community organizations and at many community events throughout the year. Thanks to a collaboration between the Health Department and the Keith Haring Foundation, #PlaySafe kits will also be accompanied by limited edition Keith Haring bags. Keith Haring was a New York City-based artist and social activist who we lost to AIDS-related complications twenty-five years ago, at the very young age of 31.

About the Kiki Community

The “House and Ballroom community” is historically a dynamic LBGTQ subculture in which people can compete for prizes and respect by “walking” or “vogueing.” This has been traditionally a space for individuals to express themselves freely and openly in creative ways. The “Kiki Ball Scene” is a youth-led, subset of the larger mainstream House and Ballroom community. The Kiki scene originated from social gatherings—"kikis"—at health outreach organizations where members of the Ballroom community could get together to socialize and practice for the mainstream balls, as well as get connected to HIV prevention services, testing and counseling.

About World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day. Since 1988, World AIDS Day has been held each year on December 1st as an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have lost their lives to HIV.