September 19, 2011
New data released Friday show the number of New Yorkers newly diagnosed with AIDS in fiscal year 2011, which ended June 30, is down by almost half from FY 2003.
The Mayor's Management Report recorded 2,225 new AIDS cases in FY 2011, 25 percent fewer than the 2,969 cases in FY 2010 and 47 percent lower than the 4,164 cases in FY 2003. Dr. Monica Sweeney, assistant commissioner of the Bureau of HIV Prevention and Control in New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, called the decline a "proxy for improved care."
"It's not that people are not infected" with HIV, said Sweeney. "It is that they are taking medications, they're able to be more adherent, treatment has become easier." The report did not look at new HIV infections, though these numbers also have been going down, she said.
But public health officials remain concerned that good news about AIDS treatment causes people to underestimate their risk of infection. "Many people who are not infected have what we call 'treatment optimism,'" said Sweeney. "'Why bother using a condom? Why bother not having multiple partners?' -- and people are still getting infected -- because of the success of the treatment."
New infections are most common among men under age 30, particularly black and Latino men who have sex with men; black women; and, to a lesser extent, Latino women, Sweeney noted. She cited data showing that infections blamed on intravenous drug use dropped from thousands a year to 185 in 2009, while mother-to-child HIV transmission is now rare.