Across the world, more than 34 million are infected with HIV. In the United States, an estimated 1.2 million are HIV positive. And New York, with approximately 110,000 residents known to be living with HIV or AIDS (more than any other state), is the epicenter of the epidemic, according to the New York City Health Department. In fact, "HIV is the third leading cause of death for New York City residents aged 35 to 54."
We hate to throw all these depressing statistics at you, but approaching the global event dedicated to HIV/AIDS education, we couldn't help but wonder: Why, with all the research and advancement made in HIV/AIDS medicine and prevention, are the rates still increasing?
Interestingly, the statistics, although on the rise, are also a testament to how well HIV/AIDS research and the quality of care given is working, says Dr. Monica Sweeney, the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Assistant Commissioner for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control. Say what? How can rising rates of infection possibly be a good thing?
"It’s the best of times and the worst of times. In New York City, I think it’s the best of times, because we have a comprehensive program to address HIV," she says. "Of course, more people are living with HIV. The more people that are living with HIV, the more people are likely to be infected. It used to be that from the time a person became infected to the time they died, it was less than two years. Now, people are living decades, HIV positive, functioning and able to participate in life instead of planning for death."
However, "it’s very important to note that it’s a double-edged sword: Doing better with the epidemic is also a way, if we’re not careful, to increase the number of people that will be infected," Sweeney says. Add to that the fact that there is an estimated addition 21% of HIV-positive New Yorkers who are unaware of their status and could be unknowingly transmitting the virus to others. Moreover, each year, about 1,000 residents don't find out they were positive until they are diagnosed with full-blown AIDS, says the Health Department.
Photo: Courtesy of World AIDS Day.
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