January 14, 2010
(Originally published in the New York Observer)
By Ed Koch, Robert Weiner and Jordan Osserman
President Obama has said he and his administration are seeking input as he works on a national AIDS strategy, and the White House is holding a series of meeting to finalize the new plan.
This is, as much as anything else, a New York City problem. According to the city's Department of Health, New York remains "the epicenter" of the H.I.V./AIDS epidemic. More than 100,000 New Yorkers are living with H.I.V., accounting for nearly one-tenth of the 1.1 million people living with the disease in the U.S.
According to the city's H.I.V. Web site, "New York City has the highest AIDS case rate in the country, with more AIDS cases than Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, and Washington DC combined. HIV is the 3rd leading cause of death below age 65 in New York City."
In an understatement, the department adds, "More must be done."
Despite a constant increase in the number of H.I.V. infections, Americans' sense of urgency about H.I.V./AIDS has "fallen considerably," according to an April 2009 Kaiser Family Foundation report. Many Americans still do not even realize that as many as one-third of H.I.V. infections result from drug abusers sharing used unsanitary needles, and the majority of cases are from unprotected sex. It's an honest if indelicate statement to point out that most AIDS would be prevented if new and multiple partners used a condom.
The city's goal, according to Mayor Bloomberg, is "to stop the spread of H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted infections" by "improving access to H.I.V. testing and condoms, and working to promote safer sexual behavior."