From The Mayor's Desk ...
In June 1981, medical researchers first described the disease we now call AIDS. So a quarter-century later, on this final Sunday of June 2006, let's take five minutes to commemorate those we've lost to AIDS, commend those who've made such a difference in fighting this disease, and commit to doing a better job both of preventing the spread of AIDS, and of helping those living with AIDS to stay strong and healthy.
AIDS has taken the lives of nearly 90,000 New Yorkers. We should never forget that for too long, fear, ignorance, and neglect allowed AIDS to flourish, contributing to its deadly toll in our communities. At the same time, let's also remember the compassion and courage of those who have helped turn the tide. There have been literally thousands of men and women who have dedicated their lives to this fight - some of them, tragically, no longer with us. By pushing for increased public understanding, and also for more education, treatment, and research, they have helped slow the spread of AIDS, and have made it possible for people with AIDS to live long, healthy, and productive lives. We've reduced deaths related to the HIV virus that causes AIDS dramatically from their peak dur-ing the terrible years of the early 1990s.
Now we're building on those efforts and working together to achieve a world free of AIDS. Our goal is to cut HIV-related deaths in New York City by 40 percent by the end of 2008; over the last four and a half years, we've gotten almost half-way there. And one of the most im-portant elements of our life-saving strategy is increasing voluntary, confidential HIV testing.
Such tests are enormously important, because today there are an estimated 20,000 New Yorkers who are living with HIV but don't even know it. That means they're not getting the treatment and medical care that could keep them from becoming sick, and also that many of them are continuing to pass HIV to others.
HIV testing has improved greatly in recent years, cutting the time required to get test results from weeks to minutes. We've made these new, rapid, and completely voluntary HIV tests available at city health clinics and public hospitals, at our correction facilities on Rikers Island, and in city homeless shelters. As a result, today nearly a quarter-million more New Yorkers have been tested for their HIV status than had been tested just 4 1/2 years ago.
That's a good start - but it's only a start. June 27th was the 10th annual National HIV Testing Day. I wholeheartedly support this campaign, and I urge anyone who doesn't know his or her HIV status to call the Citizen Service Hotline at 311 and find out the location of a hospital or clinic where testing is available. Taking the test is fast...free...painless...private ...and it can make a huge difference.
Over the past 25 years, much about AIDS has changed. And perhaps the most important of those changes is that today, a diagnosis of HIV infection thankfully no longer equates with hopelessness. Thousands of HIV-positive New Yorkers live active, productive lives. Now we're ready to push forward to the day when we have an AIDS vaccine and a cure. Testing for HIV is a vital step toward getting us there. So don't wait. Take the test - and help us win the fight against AIDS.