New York City’s Efforts To Educate Women About HIV Prevention Paid Off

Supermajority Education Fund

December 2, 2019

In 2018, New York City saw the lowest number of new HIV diagnoses since the city began tracking the diagnoses in 2001. On November 22, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported that there were 1,917 new HIV diagnoses in 2018, compared to 2,157 in 2017.

“It’s really important to know that HIV was considered a death sentence, but people now live long, full lives with HIV,” Dr. Oni Blackstock, Assistant Commissioner for the Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control for the NYC Health Department, told Supermajority News. “We have really effective HIV treatment and prevention.”

The city reported that 84% of those newly diagnosed with HIV got care within one month of their diagnosis. This rate is up from 70% in 2014. Furthermore, 53% of newly diagnosed people were virally suppressed — meaning the amount of HIV in the blood is undetectable — within three months, compared to only 26% in 2014.; AIDSinfo, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, considers a person “durably undetectable” if they remain undetectable for at least six months after that first undetected result.

Dr. Blackstock said getting people to treatment as soon as possible after being diagnosed isn’t just beneficial to them, “but it’s also a public health treatment” with “huge prevention benefits as well.” The department has an arm that reaches out to everyone who is newly diagnosed to get demographic information and to connect them with services, and Dr. Blackstock said they’re encouraged “that more folks are getting into care within a month of [their] diagnoses.”

The declines in new diagnoses were seen among both women and men, all the members of the city’s five boroughs, and all major racial and ethnic groups. The city’s data for each gender includes those with trans experience, but also specifically tracks transgender people’s HIV experiences. In 2017, there were 57 new diagnoses among transgender New Yorkers, while it increased to 59 in 2018. People who are 50 to 59 years old, as well as men who report having sex with men and have a history of injection drugs also saw an increase in new HIV diagnoses.

One of the city’s efforts to decrease new HIV diagnoses has been to educate those who historically might not be aware of HIV prevention methods besides condoms. In the past year, the city has implemented campaigns for women and healthcare providers in neighborhoods with high HIV diagnoses and STI rates. The campaign teaches providers how to talk to women, among whom rates of PrEP uptake are low, according to Blackstock, about PrEP (or Pre-exposure prophylaxis) — a once-daily pill that, when taken regularly, helps minimize the risk of HIV — and how to prescribe and refer patients for PrEP treatment. The goal of these campaigns is to get providers to help decrease new HIV infections by helping this historically overlooked groups.

The entire report for 2018 is available here.