April 30, 2002
For the seven-month period tracked by state health officials, there were 2,145 people in the city who found out they were HIV-positive. Of those, 1,713 people were black, Latino or Asian. The data also found there were 3,497 newly diagnosed AIDS cases over the same period, with 2,824 cases, or 81 percent, occurring among the same communities of color. The remaining 6,502 of the total 12,144 reported cases in the city were people who already knew they were infected but notified the Health Department for the first time.
Dennis DeLeon, president of the Latino Commission on AIDS in Manhattan, reacted with shock when he learned of the new statistics. In an effort to explain the phenomenon, he said recent studies have attributed about 60 percent of new Latino AIDS cases to intravenous drug use. The data, he said, reflected decreased government funding for prevention targeted at Latino and black communities.
Before the new notification law took effect, only AIDS cases were reported to the state Health Department. AIDS advocates, arguing confidentiality, had opposed efforts to collect data on HIV. As the epidemic progressed, however, health officials became aware of the need to track the incidence of HIV for identification and treatment. As a result, Gov. George Pataki signed the HIV Reporting and Partner Notification Law making HIV a reportable condition. Health Department spokesperson Kristine Smith said the partner notification portion of the legislation has already made a difference. In New York City, 1,003 partners of HIV-infected persons were notified or are in the process of being notified of their possible exposure to HIV.