Health Department Reminds New Yorkers To Get Tested On National HIV Testing Day

Undiagnosed HIV prevalence rate has declined 9 percentage points since 2010, according to 2015 HIV Serosurvey in the Bronx

New York Knows to host testing event with community partners at Union Square


June 27, 2016 – In recognition of National HIV Testing Day, the Health Department is reminding all New Yorkers to get tested and linked to services. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that more than 90 percent of new HIV infections in the United States could be prevented by testing and diagnosing people who have HIV and ensuring that they receive ongoing treatment and care. To commemorate National HIV Testing Day, New York Knows – the nation’s largest jurisdictional HIV testing initiative – is hosting a community event with nearly 60 community partners at Union Square on June 28th from 4 to 9 pm. Attendees will be offered HIV testing, along with blood pressure screening, nutritional information, hepatitis C testing, and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The Health Department is also unveiling results of a 2015 serosurvey in the Bronx, based on more than 5,000 specimens collected in Montefiore Hospital’s emergency room from March 8th to May 8th, 2015. The HIV prevalence among patients in the survey was 5 percent, with the highest prevalence in persons aged 50 to 59 (9.2 percent) and persons aged 40 to 49 (6.8 percent). The overall prevalence of HIV among persons who had never been diagnosed (“undiagnosed prevalence”) was 5.6 percent, a decline from 14 percent in 2010. This decline coincides with major City initiatives to improve HIV testing and care in NYC. In 2008, the Health Department and community partners launched The Bronx Knows, a large-scale public health program to increase voluntary HIV testing in the Bronx. In 2014, the City unveiled New York Knows, a partnership with organizations, health centers, hospitals, and businesses to link New Yorkers to testing and care; and later that year, the City launched  #beHIVsure, a widespread media awareness campaign throughout the city, which encouraged all New Yorkers to get tested for HIV.

“On this day, we remind all New Yorkers about the importance of HIV testing. The only HIV test you should fear is the one you don’t take,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Though we have made great progress in reducing new HIV infections, we still have more work to do to reach communities that bear the highest burden of HIV. I am confident that our #BeHIVSure, #PlaySure, and New York Knows campaigns will help end the epidemic.” 

In 2015, the de Blasio administration announced the NYC Plan to End the Epidemic, which includes a $23 million investment in Fiscal Year 2017 to increase HIV prevention and health care programming that will benefit nearly 200,000 New Yorkers per year when fully implemented. The plan aims to reduce the annual number of new HIV infections to a level that would reduce HIV below epidemic level. As part of this plan, the Health Department announced an increase in STD clinic hours earlier this year.

“The data from the Bronx show that we’re making tremendous progress in making sure everyone knows their HIV status. But there’s a still a long way to go until we end the AIDS epidemic in New York City.” said Dr. Jay Varma, Deputy Commissioner for Disease Control. “We want all New Yorkers to know their status, because it’s the only way to ‘play sure.’ If you’re HIV negative, discuss with your doctor whether you could benefit from PrEP. And, if you’re HIV positive, discuss with your doctor about starting treatment immediately.”

“With the community and government aligned to End HIV in NYC, I am inspired by the great news from the Bronx!” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, Assistant Commissioner for the Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control.  “The result of any HIV test results is good news.  People diagnosed with HIV can get into care, start HIV medication, and thrive.  HIV negative individuals who may potentially be exposed can learn about Pre- and Post-exposure prophylaxis to stay negative. Now is the time to further strengthen our efforts to make sure that ALL New York knows their HIV status regardless of age, race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation.” 

“Getting tested and raising awareness about HIV are crucial in our efforts to end the AIDS epidemic in our city,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “This issue is particularly vital for women of color; black women and girls have the highest share of new HIV diagnoses among women in New York City. On National HIV Testing Day, I urge New Yorkers to learn their status. It’s important that we fight the social stigma around HIV/AIDs and ensure that impacted New Yorkers get the resources and support they need to stay healthy.”

“While a lot of progress has been made in the fight against AIDS, we have to continue pushing forward until a cure is found for this deadly disease,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “Considering the advances we have made in treatment, testing and diagnosing people who have HIV is an extremely necessary step to help eradicate AIDS, which is why commemorating National HIV Testing Day is vital. I want to thank the Health Department for hosting this event, a huge step in the right direction in combating this disease.”

“When more people are voluntarily tested for HIV, the rate of new infections declines. More New Yorkers need to learn their HIV status and take the necessary steps to protect their health and that of others. New York Knows, the largest HIV testing initiative in the country, is doing a real service for public health, along with dozens of partnering organizations,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried of Manhattan, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health.

“Routine testing has profound health benefits for the individual and our City at large,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Committee on Health. “On National HIV Testing Day, I join the Department of Health in calling on all New Yorkers to get tested and connect to care. As our City and State governments make aggressive strides to end the epidemic, is it imperative that each of us as individuals manage our health needs and make the right choices. As the Serosurvey results show us, we are making progress. For that I want to thank the Department of Health and all the elected officials and advocates who are working hard for the health and wellness of New Yorkers.”

2015 Serosurvey Highlights
  • Males had a higher HIV prevalence (7.2 percent) than females (3.7 percent).
  • There was a higher prevalence among Black New Yorkers than people of other races and ethnicities.
  • The highest undiagnosed prevalence was seen in people aged 21 to 29 (10 percent) and people aged 70 to 79 (20 percent).
  • Males and females had similar undiagnosed prevalence (5.8 percent vs. 5.4 percent).
  • Latinos had the highest undiagnosed prevalence (6.3 percent) compared with people of other races and ethnicities.
#PlaySure Campaign and Kit
In December 2015, the Health Department launched #PlaySure – an innovative, HIV and STI prevention campaign. The goal of this sex-positive campaign is to reach all New Yorkers and allow them to choose the HIV and STI prevention tools that work for them, regardless of their HIV status. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (known as PrEP), HIV treatment, and the NYC Condom form an ideal combination for HIV prevention and sexual health. #PlaySure aims to set aside fear, and replace it with communication, honesty, and the tools we know can stop HIV and STIs.

To complement this campaign, the Health Department also developed an innovative safer sex toolkit, the #PlaySure kit. The #PlaySure kit holds everything New Yorkers need to #PlaySure –condoms, lubricant, and the prevention pill of a person’s choice (e.g., HIV medications for prevention or care). Nearly 40,000 kits have been distributed to New Yorkers since World AIDS Day 2015, when the kit was originally unveiled. The goal of the kit is to allow users to design a safer sex practice that fits their lifestyle and needs. #PlaySure kits are available for free at participating community organizations and at many community events throughout the year. Distribution locations are also available by calling 311. 

New Yorkers should talk to their doctors about getting screened for HIV, and talk openly with their doctor about their sexual practices. For additional information about the city’s free STD clinics, please visit nyc.gov/stdclinic. You can also call 311 or text TESTNYC to 877877 to find a local testing site.

To find a location that offers free NYC Condoms, call 311 or visit nyc.gov/condoms. To learn more about condom use and sexual health or to download the free NYC Condom Finder, please visit facebook.com/NYCcondom.


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MEDIA CONTACT:

Christopher Miller/Julien Martinez: pressoffice@health.nyc.gov
(347) 396-4177