ACT UP Protesters Reveal HIV-Prevention Negligence and Faulty Data at NYC's Health Department
August 13, 2013
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.
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."
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
This article was provided by ACT UP New York.
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