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Press Release

ACT UP Protesters Reveal HIV-Prevention Negligence and Faulty Data at NYC's Health Department

August 13, 2013

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New York City -- The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power/New York (ACT UP/NY) and its allies will hold a demonstration at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH) on Thursday, August 15 to protest recent funding cuts to the city's post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) program, a lack of awareness campaigns and availability of the HIV-prevention drugs PEP and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and faulty, misleading data -- all factors contributing to what ACT UP deems the "second wave" of HIV/AIDS, or AIDS 2.0.

ACT UP is protesting a Department of Health that is characterized by inaction. ACT UP demands that NYC DOHMH publicize life-saving anti-HIV drug regimens such as PEP and PrEP to at-risk NYC communities, fund city HIV prevention and release accurate data.

PEP and PrEP are life-saving drug regimens that can prevent HIV infection, yet few know about their availability. The city has chosen not to alert citizens about either drug in hopes of stemming demand, even though knowledge of either drug can save lives.

"The good intentions of Mayor Bloomberg and his incompetent Health Department have given us a new HIV Emergency that relies on 30 year old tactics and bad science to hide this disaster," said Jeton Ademaj of ACT UP.

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NYC spends little to none of its own money on HIV prevention. The DOHMH relies on federal funding and chooses to abandon HIV prevention when faced with funding cuts, rather than fund prevention itself. The lives of New Yorkers are worth NYC DOHMH's money.

Even though DOHMH makes a yearly estimate of new HIV cases in New York City, it fails to release it. When given a choice of competing HIV statistics, NYC DOHMH has chosen to publicly provide those that reflect better on the department, even if it puts the health and lives of New Yorkers at risk.

"As long as the NYC Dept of Health is lumping heterosexual HIV infection data together with LGBT HIV infection data, it will continue to ignore high-risk communities like trans women and young gay men of color.  Until that time, it's not a stretch to call the DOH a racist, transphobic, and homophobic organization," said Brandon Cuicchi, ACT UP member.

The latest, admittedly low quality, DOHMH HIV data (for year 2008) estimated that more than 5% of the New York City gay population is becoming HIV positive every year -- nearly double the national average -- while more than 11% of the black gay population is becoming positive every year. Yet NYC chooses to trumpet the fact that transmission rates are getting "no worse."

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The activists also explain the negligence behind the DOHMH's allocation of existing prevention funds. "A small fraction of NYC's HIV prevention services target gay men. Yet more than half of the new cases of HIV occur among gay men and transgender women," said ACT UP member Jim Eigo. He added, "Unless the city begins dealing with this HIV prevention emergency today, the HIV caseload tomorrow will be enormous."

In the midst of a new HIV crisis that puts transgender women and young gay and bisexual men at more than 50% risk of HIV infection by age 50, the NYC DOHMH's response has been characterized by ineptitude and inaction. Once again, activists will demand action from the city government and will unite behind the slogan: ACT UP is watching!

What: Protest at NYC DOHMH for failure to respond to the city's HIV prevention crisis
Where: NYC DOHMH, 42-09 28th Street, Long Island City, Queens. (Intersection of 28th St. and Queens Boulevard. Directions by subway: E, M, or R train to Queens Plaza or N, Q, or 7 to Queensboro Plaza.)
When: On August 15, 2013, at 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Who: AIDS activists

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This article was provided by ACT UP New York.
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Reader Comments:

Comment by: Mark (Brooklyn) Fri., Aug. 16, 2013 at 10:26 pm EDT
Hanker, maybe the reason so many people with HIV are desperate to put antiretrovirals into the hands of reckless sex addicts is that the alternative has shown itself to be worse. PrEP is a crappy prevention paradigm. It barely works for most people, it's costly and it's not like we've mastered the art of getting HIV medication to people who need it just to live. I'm clearly not a fan, but I'll take it any day over the segregation, self pity, and outright lies about medication "not working" that has come to define so much of the other camp. It's well past time for our society have an honest prevention paradigm that doesn't demonize people with HIV. Maybe we need to start with treating it as a virus, and not some scarlet letter. PrEP is the first thing that has come along which doesn't implicitly bash people who have contracted the virus. That doesn't make it good, but it's a heck of a lot easier to stomach than more stories about how AIDS is "not glamorous".
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Comment by: Hanker (New York) Thu., Aug. 15, 2013 at 9:21 pm EDT
Where does the responsiblility of the autonomous gay man lie? When are we going to make public the number of men who choose to have sex in a safe way, who choose to get tested and who choose to be honest with themselves and others about there sero-status? These steps will go a heck of a long way, farther than beating up on the DOH and drug companies and blaming them for facilitating an increase in AIDS cases and deaths. Why not put our energies into showing sero-negative people who are thinking of engaging in unsafe behavior that living with AIDS is not cheap, it's not glamorous, and comes with no implicit guarantees that treatment is either easily accessible or 100% effective. Stop shifting the responsibilities for our own health and well being onto someone else and let's take responsibility for it ourselves.
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