Health Department and Community Partners Recognize World AIDS Day with Fourth Annual Citywide Event and R.E.D. Ball

Health Department honors six community members who have made significant contributions to New York City’s End the Epidemic goals

Department debuts new, limited edition #PlaySure Kit and bag designed by Marc Jacobs

The fourth annual R.E.D. (Remembering. Empowering. Doing) Ball tonight will feature live performances, free health screenings, safer sex products and #PlaySure Kits

December 1, 2017 — In recognition of World AIDS Day, the Health Department today joined the End AIDS NY 2020 Coalition — a partnership of over 60 community partners from New York State — to host the fourth annual World AIDS Day event at Brooklyn’s historic Kings Theatre. This year’s theme, “Health Equity,” focused on addressing the obstacles people affected by HIV face in accessing optimal health care, including racism, poverty, homophobia, transphobia, stigma, violence, homelessness and housing instability. At the event, Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett honored six community leaders dedicated to ending the epidemic in New York City, and the Health Department debuted a new, limited edition #PlaySure Kit and bag designed by the fashion icon Marc Jacobs.

Later tonight, the Health Department will also join Kiki Ballroom Hall of Famer Symba McQueen to host the fourth annual R.E.D. (Remembering. Empowering. Doing) Ball at 404NYC in Hudson Yards. Inspired by New York City’s House Ballroom culture, the R.E.D. Ball will feature live performances, free health screenings, HIV prevention and treatment information, safer sex products, including condoms and lube, as well as the Marc Jacobs #PlaySure Kit.

“Today, we remember those we have lost to the HIV/AIDS epidemic through the years, and we look ahead with hope and determination that we will end the epidemic once and for all,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “As we mark the continued decline in new HIV diagnoses in this city, we remain focused on addressing persistent disparities in infection rates between Black and Latino New Yorkers and white New Yorkers. I thank our community partners for joining us in this effort.”

The World AIDS Day event coincides with the Health Department’s announcement on Wednesday of the 2016 HIV Surveillance Annual Report (PDF), which shows that in 2016, 2,279 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in New York City, down 8.6 percent since 2015. For the first time since HIV reporting began in 2001, new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men (MSM) reached a statistically significant low in 2016, with 1,236 diagnoses compared to 1,450 in 2015 — a 14.8 percent decline. Despite this progress, young MSM of color continue to shoulder the burden of new diagnoses, and there was a small increase in diagnoses among women compared to 2015, with Black and Latina women making up over 90 percent of all women newly diagnosed. More New Yorkers with HIV are achieving viral suppression. In 2016, 84 percent of HIV-positive people receiving HIV medical care in New York City were virally suppressed, up from 70 percent in 2011 when the Health Department began tracking viral suppression rates.

The Health Department also issued a letter (PDF) for health care providers along with other resources for providers and community members promoting “Undetectable = Untransmittable,” or “U = U,” which affirms that people who are taking antiretroviral medicines and maintain an undetectable viral load for at least six months do not sexually transmit HIV.

“The story of HIV in New York City revolves around community,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, Deputy Commissioner for the Division of Disease Control. “Populations over-represented in the epidemiology of HIV became voices that demanded access to life-saving medications in the early days of the epidemic. Today some of the same community voices as well as the next generation have motivated a response poised to end AIDS in NYC and beyond. The clear stance that every step of the epidemic response needs to include the community’s voice is a central tenant to the success experienced in New York City. The voices of these honorees exemplifies the courage and strength needed to speak truth to power.”

“We’ve lost friends, neighbors, and fellow New Yorkers to the HIV/AIDS crisis,” said Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “City Hall and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have made truly important strides towards ending this epidemic — but we must continue to work towards health equity. We must keep moving forward to close gaps and end AIDS in New York City forever.”

“On World AIDS Day, I encourage everyone to take the time to schedule a test for themselves and get tested. Since 2008, Bronx Knows has conducted over 2 million HIV Tests, and we need to do even more. I thank the administration, Commissioner Bassett and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for leading the city’s recognition of World AIDS Day,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

“As we commemorate World AIDS Day, I stand with the Health Department and all key stakeholder that commit to the ambitious but achievable goal of ending the HIV epidemic in New York City,” said Senator Roxanne Persaud. “Our citizens but more importantly, the next generation deserves an opportunity to live an HIV free life. We must denounce the associated stigma and discrimination and lend support for persons living or affected with the deadly HIV/AIDS virus: I will continue the fight to ensure those affected have access to prevention, care, and treatment needed.”

“On World AIDS Day, we remember those we've lost and stand with those who continue to fight HIV/AIDS,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman. “The recent news that HIV diagnoses in New York City have reached a historic low suggests we can end AIDS in our lifetime. I'm extremely grateful to the leaders making this possible, including Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Bassett, Deputy Commissioner for the Division of Disease Control Daskalakis and the multitude of advocates with whom I have the honor of working to solve this public health crisis.”

“On World AIDS Day, we remember those we have lost to HIV/AIDS,” said State Senator Liz Krueger. “And while we celebrate a significant downward trend in new transmission, we rededicate ourselves to eradicating this epidemic, especially among communities of color suffering higher rates of infection. Those of us who have lost family members and friends to HIV/AIDS know how important it is to get treatment and prevent new cases. We can and will continue to drive these numbers down.”

"With the annual number of new HIV diagnoses in our City reaching an all time low, New York has positioned itself as a leader in the eradication of this disease and we must not stop until we achieve that goal,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “We must continue working together to ensure that we implement policies that will help prevent new infections, especially in minority communities who are still being disproportionately impacted by HIV, while improving the quality of life of those afflicted by the disease. In the meantime, it is important that we take this day to celebrate how far we have come and to recommit ourselves to ending AIDS in our State by 2020.”

“World AIDS Day is a call to action in the campaign against HIV/AIDS, and New York City continues to be a national model for good public health policy,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried. “With this week’s announcement that the number of new infections in the city has reached an all-time low since reporting began in 2001, New York is on a path to ending the HIV epidemic in our lifetimes. New York City’s example shows that if we can engage the community, expand access to care, and ensure affordable medications and housing, we can achieve things no one thought possible.”

“New York City has been central to fighting the HIV and AIDS epidemic, and commemorating World AIDS Day once again brings attention to this disease which for so long failed to garner effective support due to stigma and prejudice. I am pleased to see the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is once again hosting the R.E.D. Ball that raises money and awareness for combatting this disease and preventing its spread in the future. Only through awareness and investment can we end this epidemic entirely,” said Assembly Member Deborah J. Glick.

“Today it’s important to reflect on the progress we’ve made and the work still ahead in combatting the AIDS epidemic,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen. “This year’s theme of “Health Equity” is particularly relevant in that we must focus on the obstacles so many people face in accessing treatment to achieve equity in care. I applaud Commissioner Bassett and all community partners for their work in expanding access to treatment for all New Yorkers.”

“Today, on World AIDS Day, we remember and stand together to support those whose lives are affected by HIV and AIDS, whoever they are and wherever they may be,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca. “New York City has made encouraging progress in the reduction of HIV diagnoses. I celebrate the community service organizations and medical professionals, along with the individuals and communities who have worked so hard together. While we commemorate the great toll taken by AIDS, we must remember how much more is needed to support all who remain at risk. Immigrant communities and people of color, LGBTQ, non-English speakers and those lacking access to healthcare and education must not be forgotten.”

“The enduring collaboration between the Health Department and the community is yielding demonstrable progress toward ending the HIV epidemics in New York City,” said Kimberleigh Smith, Senior Director for Community Health Planning and Policy at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center. “We must build on this progress and reach for the parallel goal of achieving full health equity – making sure everyone has a just opportunity to be healthy and continuing to break down all the barriers to good health — including poverty and discrimination and all their consequences.”

“As we come together to recognize World AIDS Day 2017, more than ever we underline the importance of community/ government/ private partnerships joining efforts to end the AIDS epidemic, said Guillermo Chacón, President of the Latino Commission on AIDS and Founder of the Hispanic Health Network. “The road to end the epidemic must address the social determinants of health, stigma, and discrimination as a critical way to reach health equity. The urgent challenge is to ensure those communities most impacted, most vulnerable, and most affected by HIV, such as young MSM of color, women of color, trans communities, and drug users, are part of designing new innovative strategies to reach our common goal.”

“I am excited to once again partner with the NYC Health Department on The R.E.D. Ball, which provides youth, especially LGBTQ+ youth of color, a safe space to freely express themselves,” said Hall of Famer Symba McQueen. “We know that the epidemic particularly affects our young Black and Brown brothers, and it’s important to keep awareness alive through events like this.”

2017 World AIDS Day Awards
At the World AIDS Day event, Heath Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett honored six community members who have significantly contributed to ending the local HIV/AIDS epidemic:

  • Mulusew Bekele, Director of Health Programs at African Services Committee, has dedicated his career to improving the health of members of the Harlem community and those from across the African diaspora.
  • Justin Vivian Bond, a trans-genre performance artist whose work includes a recent show at the New Museum that explored the evolving role of performance art in the context of HIV/AIDS.
  • Debra Lesane, Program Director at Caribbean Women’s Health Association, has been an integral part of sexual and reproductive justice, women’s rights and HIV advocacy efforts in New York City.
  • Nathaly Rubio-Torio, Executive Director at Voces Latina, is a leader in educating the Latinx community, particularly immigrant Latinas affected by HIV, on issues related to HIV, violence against women, and other health risks has made a significant impact on the lives of countless New Yorkers.
  • Eishelle Tillery, Vice President of Programs, National Black Leadership Commissioner on AIDS, Inc. (NBLCA), has promoted health equity for those most affected by HIV, including communities of color, for over 20 years. In addition to her work at Ryan-NENA Community Health Center, GMHC, and, now, NBLCA, Ms. Tillery has served as Community Co-Chair of the NYC HIV Planning Group and represents New York City in the Urban Coalition for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (UCHAPS).
  • The Alliance for Positive Change, a community-based organization helping New Yorkers living with HIV and other chronic health conditions get the medical care, peer support, and housing assistance they need.

Limited Edition #PlaySure Kit by Marc Jacobs

PlaySure kit

Deputy Commissioner Dr. Demetre Daskalakis introduced a new, limited edition #PlaySure kit and bag designed by Marc Jacobs at today’s World AIDS Day event. The #PlaySure Kit, first introduced on World AIDS Day 2015, is an innovative safer sex tool designed to hold everything New Yorkers need to play sure, such as condoms, lube, and prevention pills of choice (e.g., PrEP, PEP, HIV medications). In the last two years, over 147,000 free kits have been distributed across the city. The kit helps New Yorkers design the safer sex plan that fits their lifestyle and needs. The limited edition Marc Jacobs #PlaySure Kit will be available for free at participating community organizations, the City’s Sexual Health Clinics and at many community events throughout the year. Distribution locations are also available by calling 311.

About the R.E.D. Ball
For the fourth year, the Health Department worked closely with prominent members of New York City’s Kiki and Ballroom communities on the R.E.D. (Remembering. Empowering. Doing.) Ball. This year’s event, co-hosted by Hall of Famer Symba McQueen, will be held at 404NYC in Hudson Yards from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Influenced by the local House Ballroom scene, the R.E.D. Ball is a fashion show and runway competition styled by McQueen where people of all ages come together and express their creativity through dance, fashion, and music. Individual and House competitors will battle it out for prizes and trophies in categories, including Old Girl Move, Cac-Cac-Shawam, Wardrobe, Walking, and Zapatos and Spectacles. The “Kiki Ball Scene” is a youth-led subset of the larger mainstream House and Ballroom scene. In addition to the runway action, community partners will provide free health screenings, including HIV testing, HIV prevention and treatment information, safer sex products including condoms and lube, as well as the Marc Jacobs #PlaySure Kit.

More information about HIV and AIDS, including testing, prevention, and treatment, is available on the Health Department website, along with details about our Sexual Health Clinics, including locations, hours of operation, and available services. Visit NYC HealthMap to locate sites offering condoms, HIV testing, PrEP and PEP, Ryan White services, Positive Life Workshop, and LGBTQ health services. Call 311 or text TESTNYC to 877877 to find a local HIV testing site. For local condom providers and to learn more about condom use and sexual health, call 311, visit NYC Condoms or the NYC Condom – Get Some! Facebook page, or download our free NYC Condom Finder.

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