The Bronx is one of the counties in the country with the highest rates of HIV/AIDS with thousand of lives lost, families destroyed, and history changed forever due to this scourge.
“For HIV-infected homeless individuals in the Bronx, basic needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter, often supersede considerations regarding routine HIV medical care. Even when basic needs for food and shelter are met for homeless HIV-infected individuals, other factors, such as mental health disorders, drug and alcohol addiction, and lack of insurance, can serve as additional barriers that prevent them from engaging in care for their HIV disease. A majority must overcome not just mental illness but some combination of substance use disorders, criminal justice issues, poverty, unemployment, housing problems, trauma histories, and other complications.
HIV in the Bronx is a disease of poor and traditionally marginalized urban communities, with disproportionate rates of infection in homeless people, injection drug users, and people of color. Lack of information about Antiretro Viral Therapy, lack of access to routine care, and competing life priorities for homeless people are barriers to HIV treatment.
In a city that has a rate of new AIDS diagnoses that is more than three times higher than the national average, the neighborhoods of Highbridge/Morrisania, Hunts Point/Mott Haven and Crotona-Tremont have the 4th, 5th and 6th highest rates in NYC respectively. Highbridge/Morrisania has the 5th highest HIV death rate in the city.
South Bronx residents represent about one in four people with newly diagnosed HIV in NYC, yet they account for more than one in three AIDS deaths, the highest HIV-related death rate in NYC, and is an indication that residents at high risk of HIV infection are learning about and addressing their HIV status too late to maximize the impact of available therapies.”
Now, thanks to the leadership of the New York City Council, there is hope for Bronxites and the rest of New York City in eradicating this virus through funding $6.6 million towards, “pre-exposure and post-exposure prophylaxis programs and efforts to aid people with HIV in staying on anti-HIV drugs so they remain non-infectious.”
Known as PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis is taken by an HIV negative individual who is at high risk of contracting the virus.
The medication is the same line of defense which HIV positive individuals take which had enabled this segment of the population to live out a normal lifespan from what was once a death sentence upon diagnosis.
During a 2.5 year study in San Francisco, not one person enrolled to study the efficacy of PrEP became infected with HIV even when engaging in risky behavior.
“This initiative will help continue to provide programs and education to raise awareness of this devastating epidemic,” City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a joint November 23 statement with Corey Johnson, the openly gay and HIV-positive Council member who represents Chelsea. “It is critically important that all New Yorkers do their part to fight the spread of HIV/ AIDS. The more we take advantage of these resources, the closer we’ll get to ending the epidemic.”
As we remember those we lost and those living with the virus, let us dare be hopeful that there may be an end in sight to HIV/AIDS during our lifetime.
Let us work towards also ending the stigma and discrimination towards those with HIV/AIDS.
These all become barriers for people to seek testing as well as treatment due to fear of these stigmas.
Read more at Stigma, Discrimination, and HIV via AVERT