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NYC Commission on HIV/AIDS Report Recommends Condom Distribution, Needle Exchange, HIV Testing to Slow Spread of Virus

May 25, 2005

The New York City Commission on HIV/AIDS on Monday released a draft report recommending increased condom distribution, the establishment of needle exchanges and routine HIV testing to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS in the city, the New York Times reports (Jacobs, New York Times, 5/24). The commission -- comprised of city health officials, HIV/AIDS researchers and advocates, and HIV-positive individuals -- in its 44-page report recommended making condoms widely available at no cost in public places, including schools and nightclubs (Meyer/Colangelo, New York Daily News, 5/24). The report, which does not include a financial analysis or proposed budget, says routine HIV testing should be a part of all emergency department visits. The report also recommends public awareness campaigns to address crystal methamphetamine use among men who have sex with men, HIV/AIDS-related stigma in the black community and the ways HIV-positive people can help prevent transmission of the disease. In addition, the commission calls for increased access to housing and antiretroviral drugs for HIV-positive people. The report also endorses new state rules on gathering HIV/AIDS data, including collecting detailed information about a patient's viral load and signs of drug resistance, that will take effect next week on a temporary basis, the Times reports. Following a public comment period, the commission is expected to formally adopt the report's recommendations on June 13 (New York Times, 5/24). According to city officials, about 100,000 HIV-positive people live in New York City, and there are about 4,000 new AIDS cases annually (AP/WNBC, 5/23).

Reaction
New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden, who serves as co-chair of the HIV/AIDS commission, called the report "a bold step in the right direction," adding, "HIV/AIDS prevention and care continue to be among our most critical public health priorities. We thank the commission for putting together these critical recommendations" (Taylor, Long Island Newsday, 5/24). "The commission's draft recommendations will significantly strengthen our response to the epidemic," Scott Kellerman, the city's assistant commissioner for HIV/AIDS prevention and control, said, adding that although progress has been made in fighting the epidemic, the city is at a crucial point and more needs to be done, Xinhuanet reports. "Our goal is to drastically reduce the spread of HIV, significantly improve control of the epidemic in New York City, and provide the highest quality medical care and support services for people living with HIV/AIDS," an unnamed commission official said, adding that community input will be important as the city health department develops, revises and implements strategies to fight the disease (Xinhuanet, 5/23). "Our city authorities are to be commended for having searched what new or improved means could be applied towards the better control of HIV/AIDS," commission member Mathilde Krim, chair of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, said, adding, "The interventions recommended here would certainly hasten the day when New York City's AIDS epidemic can effectively be held in check" (NYC health department release, 5/23).

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