ACT UP/NY To Protest Health Department HIV Cuts
On Thursday, Aug. 15, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power/New York (ACT UP/NY) and its allies will hold a demonstration at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH) to protest recent funding cuts to the city's post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) program, a lack of awareness campaigns and availability of the HIV-prevention drugs PEP and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and faulty, misleading data -- all factors contributing to what ACT UP deems the "second wave" of HIV/AIDS, or AIDS 2.0.
"The good intentions of Mayor Bloomberg and his incompetent Health Department have given us a new HIV emergency that relies on 30-year-old tactics and bad science to hide this disaster," said Jeton Ademaj of ACT UP.
ACT UP is demanding that NYC DOHMH publicize life-saving anti-HIV drug regimens such as PEP and PrEP to at-risk NYC communities. PEP and PrEP are life-saving drug regimens that can prevent HIV infection, yet few know about their availability.
They also demand that the Health Department fund city HIV prevention and release accurate data, saying that the city spends little to none of its own money on HIV prevention, relying instead on federal funding and choosing to abandon HIV prevention when faced with funding cuts, rather than fund prevention itself.
Additionally, ACT UP is also calling for more accurate data to be published, saying that the DOHMH does yearly estimates of new HIV cases in New York City, but does not release that data. ACT UP said that, "When given a choice of competing HIV statistics, NYC DOHMH has chosen to publicly provide those that reflect better on the department, even if it puts the health and lives of New Yorkers at risk."
"As long as the NYC Department of Health is lumping heterosexual HIV infection data together with LGBT HIV infection data, it will continue to ignore high-risk communities like trans women and young gay men of color. Until that time, it’s not a stretch to call the DOH a racist, transphobic and homophobic organization," said ACT UP member Brandon Cuicchi.
According to the latest DOHMH HIV data for year 2008, more than 5 percent of the New York City gay population is becoming HIV-positive every year -- nearly double the national average -- while more than 11 percent of the black gay population is becoming positive every year. The activists also decry the negligence behind the DOHMH’s allocation of existing prevention funds.
"A small fraction of NYC’s HIV prevention services target gay men. Yet more than half of the new cases of HIV occur among gay men and transgender women," said ACT UP member Jim Eigo. He added, "Unless the city begins dealing with this HIV prevention emergency today, the HIV caseload tomorrow will be enormous."
In the midst of a new HIV crisis that puts transgender women and young gay and bisexual men at more than 50 percent risk of HIV infection by age 50, ACT UP described the NYC DOHMH’s response as "characterized by ineptitude and inaction."
"Once again, activists will demand action from the city government and will unite behind the slogan: ACT UP is watching!"
Join ACT Up from 1-2 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 15 at the NYC DOHMH, 42-09 28th Street, Long Island City, Queens. (Intersection of 28th St. and Queens Boulevard. Directions by subway: E. M, or R train to Queens Plaza or N, Q, or 7 to Queensboro Plaza. For more information, visit www.actupny.com or facebook.com/actupny