Summit provides support to women involved in HIV/AIDS and racial justice organizations
March 18, 2017 – In recognition of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the Health Department and the newly formed New York Knows Women’s Advisory Board today hosted a Women’s Health and Activism Summit at MIST in Harlem. Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett was the keynote speaker, and panelists discussed their personal and professional experiences reaching women through activism and health education. The event aimed to provide emotional and professional support to women involved in HIV/AIDS work and racial justice organizations and fostered new relationships across communities. For participants, the summit heightened awareness about HIV testing, linkage to care, prevention education and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). More than 150 people attended. It was convened by the Health Department’s Bureau of HIV/AIDS Control and Prevention and the Center for Health Equity.
“As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we continue to acknowledge the important role that activism plays in protecting and improving women’s health,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Although we have made great progress in our effort to end the HIV epidemic, we must continue to work with our community partners to increase access to care and push our leaders to further protect the health of women. I thank the members of the Women’s Advisory Board for convening this essential forum.”
Today there are more than 34,000 women and girls living with HIV in New York City. Nearly one out of every five people newly diagnosed is female. HIV disproportionately affects women of color – Black and Latina women together account for 90 percent of the new diagnoses among women. Additionally, one out of every four newly diagnosed females is under 30 years old.
“With the federal government threatening to defund women’s health programs in New York, nationwide, and around the world, there’s never been a better time to support and acknowledge the important role played by activists in improving health care for women and girls and combating the global epidemic of HIV and AIDS. In establishing the New York Knows Women’s Advisory Board, the NYC Health Department is doing just that,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health.
“Working with the other members of the New York Knows Women’s Advisory Board and the New York City Health Department to plan the Women’s Health and Activism Summit has been an amazing experience,” said Debra Lesane, Director of Programs for the Caribbean Women’s Health Association. “This event provided a variety of speakers, panelists, resources and activities to empower a diverse group of women from across New York City.”
“I am honored to be a member of the New York Knows Women’s Advisory Board and to have been part of the planning process for the Women’s Health and Activism Summit,” said Cristina Herrera, founder and CEO of Translatina Network. “There was great information and resources for women, transgender women and gender nonconforming New Yorkers.”
The Health Department convened the New York Knows Women’s Advisory Board in January 2017 to address issues related to HIV and women’s health in New York City. The board is a diverse group of dedicated and passionate female leaders with expertise serving and empowering women within their communities.
This year, the Health Department announced the historic expansion of HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) services, and the renaming of STD Clinics as Sexual Health Clinics. The expansion is part of New York City’s Ending the Epidemic (EtE) plan, which includes a $23 million investment in fiscal year 2017 to reduce the number of new HIV infections in New York City to no more than 600 cases per year by 2020. With additional staff and expanded hours, the clinics break new ground by offering a revolutionary approach to medical treatment for New Yorkers at risk for or newly diagnosed with HIV, as well as additional services to test and treat STIs. Among the new services is the JumpstART program, which, for the first time, provides immediate antiretroviral treatment and connection to care for patients newly diagnosed with HIV. Antiretroviral medication allows people with HIV to live healthier, longer lives and reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others.
Sexual Health Clinics also offer cervical cancer prevention and screening services in the form of ThinPrep pap smears, rapid trichomonas testing, and HPV vaccination. Patients at risk of unintended pregnancy can receive emergency contraception or “quick start” oral contraceptive pills or the Depo-Provera birth control shot at the Fort Greene clinic; all eight Sexual Health Clinics will eventually offer same-day initiation of contraception with referral for longer term care.
In December 2015, the Health Department launched #PlaySure, a novel health marketing campaign to promote HIV and STI prevention, followed by Stay Sure in 2016. The goal of these sex-positive campaigns is to reach all New Yorkers and encourage them to choose their preferred HIV and STI prevention tools, regardless of their HIV status. To complement these efforts, the Health Department developed an innovative safer sex toolkit, the #PlaySure Kit. The #PlaySure Kit can hold everything New Yorkers need to “play sure” – condoms, lubricant and their preferred prevention pill (PrEP, PEP, HIV meds). More than 110,000 kits have been distributed to New Yorkers since it was originally unveiled on World AIDS Day 2015. The kit helps New Yorkers design a safer sex plan that fits their lifestyle and needs. #PlaySure Kits are available for free at Sexual Health Clinics as well as participating community organizations and many community events throughout the year. Distribution locations are also available by calling 311.
The Center for Health Equity works to strengthen and amplify the Health Department’s work to eliminate health inequities, which are rooted in historical and contemporary injustices and discrimination, including racism. Our vision is that every New Yorker will live in a thriving neighborhood, where resources work well and systems are equitable. These conditions will nurture and sustain healthy individuals and communities across our city.
MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Julien Martinez, (347) 396-4177