Tuesday, February 5, 2008

HIV in NYC: Youngsters Miss the Message

Two recent reports on HIV in New York City show some alarming trends

1) http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/pr2007/pr079-07.shtml

2) http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/pr2008/pr004-08.shtml).

First, however, the good news. Overall, new diagnoses of HIV in men who have sex with men have gone down by 4.9%. In fact, for MSM over 30, they have gone down by 22.2%.
Now the bad news. For MSM under thirty, new HIV cases have gone up by 33%. This indicates that young people are behaving very differently than older folks. Some HIV prevention advocates talk about “AIDS” fatigue, meaning that people are tired of the same old boring condom speeches. Others suggest that availability of AIDS medications has caused people to let their guards down. Public health experts worry about increased drug use being a factor, as well as increased prevalence of syphilis (the sores make transmission of HIV more likely). Whatever the reason, it is clear that some groups have gotten the message, and others have missed it. The department will have to figure out how to target younger people with the new ad campaigns it has promised in response to these findings.
Parsing the statistics by neighborhood is also revealing. For example, East and Central Harlem experienced a 115% increase overall in new HIV cases. Chelsea and Clinton 56%.
In the report, the executive director of Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD), Tokes Osubu, had the following to say:

“…We need an integrated approach across city agencies, social justice organizations and AIDS organizations, and a less judgmental approach by faith institutions.”

The last suggestion may be the most tricky. However, particularly in communities such as East and Central Harlem, it may be one of the most important.

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