World AIDS Day is a time to make space for grieving and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. We also recognize World AIDS Day as an opportunity to show our continued support for HIV prevention and those living with HIV/AIDS.
NYC has a long, first hand experience with AIDS and HIV. In 1987, the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Stephen C. Joseph, said that New York was “the epicenter of the [AIDS] disaster.” During the early rise of AIDS and HIV, NYC Health + Hospitals stepped up and provided treatment to the city’s most vulnerable populations, regardless of income, demographics, or beliefs. At that time, people with AIDS or HIV were often stigmatized, and the press and many politicians fretted over the economic impact of this publicly funded healthcare. But it’s a point of pride for NYC H+H to have provided AIDS care for 40 over years.
PAGNY doctors continue this legacy today through accessible testing, prevention, care, and treatment in 7 NYC H+H hospitals with Designated AIDS Centers (DACs).
For many of the 129,000 New Yorkers living with HIV, these DACs provide medical care, coordination, individualized assistance in accessing needed services, and comprehensive case management that attends to their multiple and complex psychosocial/health related needs. PAGNY healthcare professionals provide ongoing, confidential services in the communities they serve.
The tools we have to fight HIV and AIDS have come a long way over the past four decades, and that starts with awareness and screening. Early on in the AIDS crisis, the virus largely affected LGTBQ+ communities, artists, sex workers, performers, and people who used intravenous drugs. In truth, AIDS and HIV are agnostic to gender, sexuality, or employment: they can affect anyone. Joe Wright summarized that even before doctors knew what caused AIDS, “Researchers soon found heterosexual adults and then young children with the same syndrome.” Anyone can get this disease. Luckily, prevention is possible with testing and safe habits. PACs provide education and resources for HIV and AIDS prevention and care.
At NYC H+H/Jacobi, “patients who do test positive are immediately linked to care provided by our HIV Center, where doctors offer all the latest in HIV/AIDS treatments, services, and support programs.” Healthcare professionals at the NYC H+H/Lincoln AIDS/HIV Center offer competent family and youth centered services, education workshops, and legal advocacy for all children, adolescents, women, and families in the Bronx. They provide HIV counseling and testing Mondays through Fridays, even through self-referrals. Like other H+H locations, these institutions provide culturally competent and multilingual care that reflect the values and needs of the communities they’re in.
The tradition of wearing red to raise AIDS awareness began with Visual AIDS, a NYC-based contemporary arts organization. They launched the Red Ribbon at the Tony Awards broadcast in June 1991, and the red ribbon became a universal symbol of AIDS awareness almost overnight. PAGNY team members continue the tradition every year by wearing red for World AIDS Day. Let this gesture be a reminder to visit an NYC H+H Designated AIDS Center to get tested today: it could save your life, or the life of someone you love.