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HIV Diagnoses Fall to Historic Low in New York City


But there's still work left to be done. 

Fewer than 2,000 New Yorkers were diagnosed with HIV last year -- the lowest that number has been since reporting started in 2001.

The 2018 HIV Surveillance Annual Report released this week showed that 1,917 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in New York City in 2018. That marks an 11 percent drop from 2017 and a two-thirds decrease since 2001, when 5,859 new cases were reported.

"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," said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot in a press release accompanying the findings.

New HIV diagnoses were down among men and women; among Black, Latino, white, Native, and Asian New Yorkers; and in all five boroughs. The drops were particularly steep in men who have sex with men, people between the ages of 20 and 29, and those with a history of using injection drugs.

However, rates had increased among transgender people and men who report both having sex with men and injection drug use.

Nearly half of the people newly diagnosed with HIV were Black; 36 percent were Latino, and about 10 percent were white.

"Until we see equitable progress among New Yorkers from all walks of life, we must double down on our efforts to fight the 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," said Dr. Oni Blackstock, Assistant Commissioner for the Health Department's Bureau of HIV, in a statement. "We cannot end the epidemic among New Yorkers without ending the epidemic among all New Yorkers."

In 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio enacted the NYC Ending the Epidemic Plan, which aims to reduce the number of new HIV diagnoses in the city to fewer than 600 in 2020. The plan put $23 million yearly toward increasing access to PrEP and other forms of HIV prevention care and improving methods for tracking new cases, as well as making it easier for New Yorkers with HIV to get treatment.

The report notes that 87 percent of people receiving care for HIV in 2018 were virally suppressed, which helps individuals stay healthy. People who are receiving treatment and who have an undetectable viral load also can't give HIV to others through sex, which public health officials call "Undetectable = Untransmittable," or "U = U."

The number of deaths from HIV-related causes has also dropped. In 2017, the most recent year such information was available, fewer than a third of total deaths among people with HIV were related to the infection.

Throughout the country, the rate of new HIV diagnoses has decreased since 2013, although the numbers have remained more or less constant.

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