Mayor Stephanie Miner and representatives of ACR Health announced significant progress towards ending the state’s AIDS epidemic by 2020. New York’s AIDS crisis peaked in 1993 with nearly 15,000 new infections. In 2015, the number of new infections was down to 3,123, a 79% decrease. But the fight is far from over.
Denise Smith lost her 32 year-old son Ron to AIDS just last December. Ron was diagnosed in late 2013 after being disoriented and having trouble walking.
“I want to talk about stigma. Webster’s new world definition: a bad mark on one’s record; a sign of disgrace. Because of stigma and fear, my son did not get tested.”
She urges parents to have what could be an uncomfortable conversation about condom use and finding out if your child is HIV positive.
ACR Health’s director of prevention John Arcuro states that one of the biggest reasons HIV spreads is that people simply don’t get tested.
“HIV is preventable. People who don’t know they have HIV are the ones who spread it, and these are the people that ACR Health is working hard to find. Which is why it is so crucial to this epidemic that everyone know their status.”
But significant progress has been made. ACR Health executive director Will Murtaugh believes community outreach and access to testing and care are what pave the way to the program’s success.
“A lot of it can be the targeted testing for HIV. We have increased our testing…45% over the last couple of years, reaching many more people, identifying those people with HIV so they can get into treatment and be successful with their disease.”
In 2015, Onondaga County reported 34 new cases of HIV, 25 of which had become AIDS. Murtaugh notes that the AIDS epidemic will be considered a controlled disease in New York State when new infections are down to only 750 per year.
This Sunday, the Beaver Lake Nature Center will host the 25th Annual AIDS Walk/Run to support prevention services for youth.