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New HIV diagnoses in NYC reach historic low

The New York City Health Department released its annual data on new HIV diagnoses in the city.
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2016 saw the lowest new HIV diagnoses in New York City since the city began tracking such data. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

The number of yearly new HIV diagnoses in New York City has reached a historic low, the Health Department announced this week

The department recently released its 2016 HIV Surveillance Annual Report, an annual survey of HIV data and diagnoses in New York City that began in 2001.

According to that report, 2,279 people were newly diagnosed with HIV last year — an 8.6 percent decrease from the year before, 2015.

In 2001, when the city first began collecting such data, there were more than 5,900 total new HIV diagnoses across the city.

“The historic low in new HIV diagnoses is yet another indication that we remain on the road to ending the HIV epidemic in our city,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement.

The report also parsed out specific data for HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men (MSM).  For that population, the number of new HIV diagnoses in 2016 dropped nearly 15 percent from 2015. About 1,200 men received new diagnoses in 2016 — marking a “statistically significant low” for the first time since recording began —  compared to 1,450 the year before.

White and Latino MSM saw the largest decrease, but young MSM of color “continue to shoulder the burden of new diagnoses,” according to the city.

“While we have seen a dramatic decrease in HIV diagnoses among the MSM community overall, we must continue to work together to address the excess number of new HIV infections in communities of color,” Bassett said.

More HIV-positive New Yorkers are now also achieving viral suppression, the report found. In 2016, 84 percent of HIV-positive New Yorkers receiving HIV medical care were virally suppressed, compared to 70 percent in 2011 (the year the Health Department began tracking viral suppression rates). 

When people with HIV are virally suppressed, the virus cannot be transmitted. That’s the basis behind the “Undetectable = Untransmittable” campaign launched in New York City by Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, deputy commissioner for the health department’s Division of Disease Control, over a year ago.

“Supporting New Yorkers living with HIV to reach and maintain viral suppression, also known as achieving an ‘undetectable’ viral load, by starting and staying on HIV medications, is a key element to turning the tide of HIV in our city,” Daskalis said in a statement.

Though there are less new diagnoses overall, there was a small increase in HIV diagnoses among women in 2016, compared to 2015. Black and Latina women specifically made up over 90 percent of all women newly diagnosed.

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