NEW YORK --
A new HIV campaign can be found throughout the New York City subway system in an effort to spread awareness about the disease and the potential development of other health conditions due to the virus. The Health Department is behind the campaign called, "It's Never Just HIV", which uses posters to target those who are at the highest risk of contracting the disease. Currently, gay males and other men that engage in sexual activity with men have been found to be more susceptible to the HIV virus. In 2009, this specific group accounted for 43% of the newly diagnosed HIV infections in New York City. Additionally, Black and Hispanic males represented 57% of the newly diagnosed cases. In an internet video released by The Health Department, Dr. Monica Sweeney, assistant commissioner for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control explains, "Some 4,000 New Yorkers are newly infected every year. And the rate of new diagnoses is rising among young gay and bisexual men. In fact, the number of men who have sex with men under age 30 who are newly reported with HIV has risen by 50% over the last several years. This increase in new HIV infections 30 years into the epidemic is unacceptable to me and should be unacceptable to all of us. We have to respond strongly to prevent a new generation from getting this incurable infection." The campaign does not only focus on ways to prevent the disease, but also reminds the public that other serious illnesses are linked to the HIV virus.
A few of the health conditions that can develop after an infection with HIV are dementia, bone loss, and cancer. All of these conditions are dangerous and potentially life threatening. Although treatment for HIV has progressed over the years, there is evidence that the damage done in early stages of the disease can have lasting consequences. Dr. Thomas Farley, the New York City Health Commissioner, recommends that the "best way to stay HIV-free is to use condoms consistently." The ads and videos for the "It's Never Just HIV" campaign can be viewed at nyc.gov. The implementation of the campaign and the strong messages it is relaying to the public, may be able to change some of the overwhelming statistics and enforce safer sexual activity.
How to protect yourself and others:
If you are having sex, the safest relationship is a faithful one with one partner who is HIV-negative. If your partner is HIV-positive or either of you has other sex partners, here are some ways to reduce your risk: Never have sex without a condom. Use only latex or polyurethane condoms, with lubrication. Reduce your number of sexual partners. The more partners you have, the greater your risk. Avoid alcohol and drugs when you have sex. You are less likely to use a condom if your judgment is impaired. Know your sexual partners. Get tested together for HIV and other STDs before you have sex. Pick up a copy of HIV, Gay Men and Other Men who have Sex with Men, which contains the information mentioned here and much more. Call 311 or visit nyc.gov to find out where you can get a copy.
Know your HIV status, get tested! If you have ever had sex or have ever injected drugs, even once, you should get tested for HIV. Men who have sex with men should get tested at least every six months if you are at continued risk. Just remember that taking an HIV test does not protect you from HIV. Your regular health care provider can give you an HIV test. In fact, New York State law now requires primary care providers to offer voluntary HIV tests to any patient between 13 and 64 years of age, even during routine visits. If you are not offered an HIV test, ask for one. Free and confidential HIV tests are also available at Health Department STD clinics in all five boroughs. For clinic locations and hours, call 311 or visit nyc.gov (keyword HIV testing). The clinics will serve you regardless of your immigration or insurance status.
Get tested for other STDs If a sexually transmitted disease (STD) causes breaks or sores in your skin, it can increase your risk of getting or spreading HIV. STDs can also weaken your immune system, making you more likely to become infected with HIV if you are exposed. Condoms: Still the Best Protection Using a condom every time you have anal, oral or vaginal sex protects you and your partners from getting HIV and other STDs, such as syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital herpes, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. The Health Department offers free NYC Condoms, lubricant, female condoms and alternative male condoms (different sizes, textures and flavors) at thousands of venues around New York City. For more information, call 311, go to nyc.gov (keyword condoms), or join the discussion on the NYC Condom Facebook page.