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New York Times Examines HIV/AIDS Crisis in Westchester County, N.Y.

January 26, 2004

The New York Times on Sunday examined the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Westchester County, N.Y., which county health commissioner Dr. Joshua Lipsman calls Westchester's "most challenging health crisis." Westchester has more people living with HIV and AIDS than any other county in the state, excluding New York City, with approximately 2,000 people living with AIDS and about 3,000 people living with HIV, according to Lipsman. Prevalence among the county's African-American and Latino populations is of particular concern, the Times reports. While 14.2% of the county's total population is African-American, African Americans account for 51% of AIDS cases in the county. In addition, Latinos, which comprise 15.6% of the population, account for 19% of AIDS cases. Lipsman said, "If you look at the most likely person in Westchester to be getting an HIV infection, she is going to be a heterosexual African-American woman between the ages of 30 and 50 and living in one of Westchester's cities. There are very few other medical problems in which we can identify so clearly the targeted population." He added, "There is no other disease that is so disproportionately impacting people of color as [HIV/AIDS] is."

Outreach Actions
HIV/AIDS advocates say that outreach and education programs are necessary because "there remains a widespread misconception" that antiretroviral drugs offer a "cure for AIDS, or that living with the diseases is just not that big a deal," the Times reports. Jeffrey Kraus, executive director of the Hudson Valley regional agency AIDS Related Community Service, said, "Because there's a viable treatment that's keeping a lot of people alive and healthy, people think that 'Gee, this isn't so bad; it's treatable. I can live with it.' [But t]hat's a dire mistake." Larry Hilton, executive director of HIV/AIDS programs for the Urban League and co-chair of the Westchester AIDS Council, said that the council is exploring new ways of addressing HIV/AIDS prevention among the hardest-hit populations in the county, according to the Times. He said that one possible way to target African Americans is through faith-based initiatives, as religious leaders could be a "powerful force in AIDS prevention," the Times reports. Kraus and other HIV/AIDS advocates also say that needle exchange programs could help curb the spread of the disease in the Hudson Valley region, where 38% of cases are attributed to injection drug use (Stone Lombardi, New York Times, 1/25).

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