On World AIDS Day, de Blasio Announces New HIV Testing Program

Mayor Bill de Blasio. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Mayor Bill de Blasio. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced a new city campaign called “NY Knows,” which will urge sexually active New Yorkers to get checked for HIV and create testing facilities across the five boroughs.

Mr. de Blasio announced the new initiative at a World AIDS Day event at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, arguing that too many New Yorkers are afraid to even find out if they have the virus, which can cause the condition known as AIDS.

“We still have people who don’t learn the reality of their own health, and don’t learn whether they’re even HIV positive,” Mr. de Blasio told an applauding crowd, adding that the new program will be modeled on the existing “Bronx Knows” and “Brooklyn Knows” testing programs. “There will be a means for all those who never got tested to have that chance, with programs starting in the Bronx and Brooklyn are going to expand out to all five boroughs. We want this to be something people know is there for them.”

The mayor emphasized that fear is a tremendous obstacle to widespread testing that the city must help people overcome.

“You know what? There is often a lot of fear about the HIV test, let’s face it. There’s been a sense of pause repeatedly when you think of the notion of getting tested, a reluctance,” he said.  “The only HIV test to fear is the one you don’t take. Because if you don’t know, you never get the help you deserve.”

Mr. de Blasio’s health commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett, noted that the highest rates of infection are among black and Hispanic women, and men who have sex with other men.

“All these data tell us how much work we still have to do, and how we must commit ourselves to do more,” she said, laying out the plan for promoting and de-stigmatizing the disease. “This is an opportunity for every New Yorker who’s never been tested. And that is to identify the people who have not been diagnosed, and make sure they take advantage of those services. And the last goal is to make HIV testing a routine part of healthcare.”

Ms. Bassett added that NY Knows campaign will use the social media tagline “Be HIV Sure,” and will help connect qualified New Yorkers with low-cost insurance.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, joined onstage by Councilman Corey Johnson–who is HIV positive–and State Senator Brad Hoylman, hailed the program as part of a history and future of government assisting the public in getting testing and treatment for the infection.

“We are re-affirming our commitment to the struggle, that this is something that has to happen,” Ms. Mark-Viverito said.

On World AIDS Day, de Blasio Announces New HIV Testing Program