To commemorate World AIDS Day on December 1, State Senator José M. Serrano (D- Bronx/Manhattan) today called on New Yorkers, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation, to join together at precisely 9:11 a.m. to pray for the many people in our communities who are infected and affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
"World AIDS Day is a unique moment each year when all of humanity celebrates the progress we have made in the battle against AIDS, and brings attention to the enormous challenges still to come," Senator Serrano said. "I applaud the Black Legislative Commission on AIDS of New York City for establishing this statewide moment of prayer."
Senator Serrano noted that HIV and AIDS disproportionately affects diverse communities of color. In New York State, as of 2002, more than 157,000 persons had been diagnosed with AIDS, while nearly 30,000 persons lived with HIV (but had not progressed to full-blown AIDS). In both cases, about 45 percent of those affected were African-American and 30 percent were Hispanic.
"Overcoming health disparities, and promoting the health of all New Yorkers, remains one of our State’s foremost challenges," Senator Serrano added. "We must address the disproportionate rate of AIDS deaths among minorities by doing a better job of identifying persons infected with HIV before they progress to AIDS."
Health officials estimate that up to 50,000 New Yorkers are infected with HIV, but do not know it. Once infected, people may have no symptoms for 10 years or more. Without early treatment, however, most people infected with HIV, a virus that attacks the immune system, gradually become less able to fight off everyday germs, progressing to AIDS, a late stage of HIV disease.
"With today’s testing methods and medical care, this is a full-blown tragedy," the New York City lawmaker said. "We know that anyone – regardless of age, race, ethnic group, religion, or sexual orientation– can get HIV. That’s why testing makes sense. I encourage you to arm yourself with knowledge by learning your HIV status. Even if you have no known risk factors, you may still want to get tested just to ease your own mind."
To talk with someone about HIV or ask questions, contact the toll-free CDC National AIDS hotline, available 24 hours a day, at 1-800-342-2437 or the NYS HIV/AIDS hotline at 1-800-541-2437 (English) or 1-800-233-7432 (Spanish).
Senator Serrano concluded: "Ignorance and prejudice are fueling the spread of a largely preventable disease. We can all make a difference in overcoming injustice. This year, help reduce the stigma associated with AIDS. Talking openly about HIV and testing with your family, friends and colleagues is one of the most powerful ways of ending prejudice and preventing the spread of HIV."