Community-based organizations, hospitals, and health clinics throughout New York City will voluntarily test every adult resident between the ages of 18-64 living in the Bronx for HIV, The New York Times reports.
The decision, announced by The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, comes on the heels of a recent report which shows New York City residents have the highest rate of practicing unsafe sex, and one of the highest HIV rates in the United States.
The Bronx, the report shows, has been hit especially hard.
In 2005, an estimated 250,000 Bronx residents aged 18–64 had never been tested for HIV, and one in four people with HIV did not know they were infected. The report also shows that one out of every four people that found out they were HIV-positive also found out they had full-blown AIDS at the same time.
The department of health website reports the goal of the initiative is that every Bronx resident learns his or her HIV status and has access to quality care and prevention services.
“The Bronx has the opportunity to lead the city in the fight against HIV/AIDS by being the first borough to have all residents tested,” says Thomas R Frieden, MD, MPH, and commissioner of the city’s health department.
“This will set a model not only for the city but for the whole country,” he says.
Testing will take place over a three-year period and additionally will include all New York City health clinics, universities, and jails. The health department then wants the initiative to spread throughout the remaining boroughs of the city.
The campaign will push to make the voluntary testing routine in emergency rooms and storefront clinics, where complicated consent procedures required by state law have deterred doctors from offering the tests in the past, city officials say.
“Routine would mean if you came into the emergency room for asthma or a broken leg, we test everyone for HIV, if they’re willing,” Frieden says.
“What’s new here is that we are implementing it on this large a level,” says Dr. Donna Futterman, director of the adolescent AIDS program at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.
“The Bronx has 1.3 million people. It’s bigger than most cities, bigger than Boston, bigger than Washington. We’re talking about a significant urban population,” explains Futterman, who helped develop the program for the city.
Dr. Monica Sweeney, an assistant health commissioner for HIV prevention, tells The New York Times the city has not set aside money specifically for the program, but will absorb the $12 cost of each test.
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