For the first time since New York began annual HIV reporting, the number of new diagnoses dropped below 2,000 last year.
That’s according to a new report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which reports that 1,917 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in New York City in 2018. In 2017, the figure was 2,157.
The decline was seen across numerous demographic groups, including men and women; Black, Latino, White, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Native American New Yorkers; residents of all five boroughs; and people under the age of 49 and 60 years and older.
In addition, the number of people whose viral load is suppressed increased from 81 percent in 2014 to 87 percent. When HIV is untransmittable when it is undetectable, making viral suppression a key element of curtailing future transmissions.
“We take a data-driven, sex-positive approach to HIV prevention that is firmly grounded in equity — and we are proving that it works,” wrote Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot in a statement. “New York City can end the epidemic if we continue to fight against the stigma, bias, and discrimination that continue to be significant drivers of HIV, particularly among Black and Latino men who have sex with men.”
Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Raul Perea-Henze offered praise for local outreach and prevention efforts, writing that the city’s goal of ending the epidemic by 2020 is within sight but also called for increased efforts to reach that goal. “We must continue to accelerate our efforts to reach and empower all New Yorkers affected by HIV, in honor of those we have lost and those who continue to fight every day,” he wrote.
In particular, Dr. Oni Blackstock, Assistant Commissioner for the Health Department’s Bureau of HIV, said the city still has work to do in addressing “institutional racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of stigma that put people at greater risk of HIV infection and, for people with HIV, put care and treatment further out of reach.”
New York allocated $23 million to end the epidemic in 2015, increasing access to services and improving monitoring of new cases. The city also launched an sex-positive education initiative, with particular focus on people disproportionately affected by HIV.
The city also overhauled its eight Sexual Health Clinics to offer services like HIV testing, emergency medication, PrEP services, and counseling. These services are available to anyone over the age of 12, regardless of immigration status, insurance, or ability to pay.
“This historic drop in new HIV cases is the result of the collective efforts of activists, public health officials and everyday New Yorkers who have sought to end the epidemic,” said New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “The City Council will continue to fight for every New Yorker affected by this disease. I look forward to the day when there are zero new diagnoses.”
Since the start of the epidemic, it’s estimated that over 100,000 New Yorkers have died of causes related to HIV/AIDS.