Bronx/Westchester—Encouraging New Yorkers to "take control of their lives," State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D-Mt. Vernon) today urged constituents, in recognition of the June 27th observance of National HIV Testing Day, to make an appointment to get tested.
The lawmaker noted that getting tested on a regular basis is the only way for people to "protect themselves, their partners, and their futures."
"What we are talking about here is a pandemic that has killed no less than 25 million people worldwide since 1981—or twice the population of the state of Pennsylvania," Senator Hassell-Thompson explained. "The seriousness of this disease cannot be underestimated. There is no cure. People must be armed with the information they need to protect themselves, including their own status, as well as that of their partner."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that more than 1 million people in the United States are living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)—the virus the causes AIDS. However, about a quarter have no idea they are infected. And when people don’t know their HIV status, they may inadvertently infect their partner.
HIV infections are disproportionately high in New York where, according to the most recent New York State Department of Health Statistics, over 112,000 New Yorkers live with HIV and/or AIDS. More than 172,000 cases have been diagnosed so far in our state alone.It is recommended that if someone answers yes to any of these questions, they be tested immediately:
Have you ever injected drugs, steroids, or shared equipment with someone who does?
Have you ever had unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex?
Have you ever had sex with someone who has had sex with someone other than yourself?
Have you previously been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease?
Have you ever had sex with someone who could answer yes to any of the above questions?
"People don’t need to be scared of getting an HIV test—they need to be concerned about what it could mean if they don’t," said Senator Hassell-Thompson. "Tests are easy, accessible, anonymous, and depending on where it is done, can give you results in a matter of minutes. The only way we are going to stop this disease is by catching existing infections and preventing new ones. I urge everyone to talk to their partner, get tested and learn about the prevention and treatment of HIV."
Free testing sites can be found online at www.hivtest.org or by calling a 24-hour confidential hotline at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636). The senator recommended that those interested in learning more about HIV visit www.aids.gov and www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/factsheets.
"HIV does not discriminate and it is what people think they know about the disease, but actually don’t, that is placing them at the most risk. The reality is that about one in five persons living with HIV is over the age of 50 and the age group with the highest rate of new infections are those 35-44 years old. This is a disease that can affect anyone, anywhere," Senator Hassell-Thompson concluded.