There’s both good and bad news coming out of HIV stats from New York’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).
First, the good news: in the past 10 years, HIV infection rates have been cut in half.
Now, the bad news. More than half of new HIV infections occurred among MSMs (men who have sex with men)—specifically those under 30.
Susan Scutti, writer for Medical Daily, quoted C. Virginia Fields, president and CEO of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, who stated that “’Complacency among the young that HIV/AIDS is just a matter of taking one pill a day’ can make them less likely to practice safe sex.”
Scutti continued, “Close to 112,000 people were living with HIV/AIDS in New York City as of June 2011, but the true number, doctors with DOHMH believe, is possibly 20 percent higher since many people do not get tested and do not know their status.
“New infections also disproportionately affect the black and Hispanic communities, which accounted for nearly 80 percent of the newly diagnosed cases. The majority live in central Brooklyn neighborhoods—Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, Williamsburg, Bushwick and East Flatbush—areas that are already home to the city’s largest group of those living with the disease.
“Although infection among young MSMs is rising, they are not alone in contracting the disease. Many MSMs do not identify as gay, preferring to hide their sexual preferences for other men, and some doctors believe they are infecting their black female partners, who made up 79 percent of all new HIV cases among Brooklyn women in 2011.”
And according to Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women are “bearing a disproportionate burden of disease compared with their white or Hispanic counterparts.”
Fortunately however, there are avenues of hope. For nearly 25 years, an infrastructure of health care services specifically targeting HIV/AIDS have been in place within Brooklyn: HEAT/FACES, a network of HIV/AIDS clinics; and the Brooklyn AIDS Task Force, which serves minority communities in particular.