NY leaders set goal to end AIDS by 2020

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Dozens of volunteers join a human chain in the form of a red ribbon, a symbol of "love and care" for HIV and AIDS carriers worldwide, at a gathering in downtown Taipei in 2011. To mark World AIDS Day 2014, New York leaders announced they would work to eradicate the disease in the Empire State by the end of the decade. (Photo credit: PATRICK LIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Dozens of volunteers join a human chain in the form of a red ribbon, a symbol of “love and care” for HIV and AIDS carriers worldwide, at a gathering in downtown Taipei in 2011. To mark World AIDS Day 2014, New York leaders announced they would work to eradicate the disease in the Empire State by the end of the decade. (Photo credit: PATRICK LIN/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (PIX11) – City leaders have launched an ambitious campaign with the goal of saving lives: wiping out AIDS in New York within the next six years.

It was part of Monday’s observance of World AIDS Day, meant to raise awareness for the disease that contributed to about 1.5 million deaths last year alone, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Mayor Bill de Blasio, city and health leaders revealed the Ends AIDS NY 2020 campaign at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, saying the goal is to cut the number of new HIV infections to 750 per year by the end of the decade.

“The end of the AIDS epidemic in New York will occur when the total number of new HIV infections has fallen below the number of HIV-related deaths,” the group said.

That goal is part of an initiative launched in October by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who created a task force to eradicate the debilitating illness in the Empire State by linking people with HIV to healthcare, getting patients on anti-HIV therapy, and providing high-risk people with access to medication taken daily to prevent HIV infection.

More than 132,000 New Yorkers were living with HIV/AIDS as of December 2012, the most recent year for which data is available from the New York State Health Department. The majority of those patients – about 80 percent – live in the five boroughs.

In New York State, HIV disproportionately affects minority populations with rates of new HIV diagnoses highest among blacks and Hispanics, the agency said.

On Monday, New Yorkers will have access to free, rapid HIV testing throughout the city.

Community Healthcare Network is offering free HIV screenings at Union Square Park, between east 15th and 16th streets, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Free tests will be available from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the network’s Bronx Health Center located at 975 Westchester Ave.

Results are available in about 20 minutes and the tests do not require a needle, simply a mouth swab.

Worldwide, some 35 million people were living with HIV as of 2013, the latest figures available from WHO. About a third of those patients were receiving antiretroviral therapy.

An infection that breaks down the body’s ability to fend off infections and other diseases, HIV is spread through:

  • unprotected sex with an infection person;
  • transfusions of contaminated blood;
  • sharing of contaminated needles or syringes;
  • and from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.

AIDS refers to the most advanced stages of HIV infections, according to WHO.

Key ways to prevent HIV transmission, according to WHO, include:

  • practicing safer sex, such as using condoms;
  • getting tested and treated regularly for sexually transmitted infections;
  • avoid injecting drugs or, if you do, use new and disposable needles and syringes;
  • ensure that any blood or blood products you might need are first tested for HIV.
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