ACT UP to Protest NYC Department of Public Health
August 14, 2013 - by Brenden Shucart
Over the course of the 30 plus years of the AIDS epidemic, one of the most exciting developments has been the developments of pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis—PEP and PrEP. But though these biomedical interventions have proven to be incredibly effective at preventing the spread of HIV many HIV advocacy and service organizations and public health departments have been very reluctant to adopt or promote their use in any meaningful way. Notably conspicuous in this lack of action—especially considering the fact that the total number of people living with HIV in NYC has grown by over 28 percent since 2001—is the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH).
The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power/New York (ACT UP/NY) and its allies will be holding a demonstration at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on Thursday, August 15 to protest recent funding cuts to the city’s post-exposure prophylaxis program, lack of awareness campaigns and availability of the HIV-prevention drugs PEP and pre-exposure prophylaxis and faulty, misleading data—all factors contributing to what ACT UP deems the “second wave” of HIV/AIDS, or AIDS 2.0.
“The good intentions of Mayor Bloomberg and his incompetent Health Department have given us a new HIV Emergency that relies on 30 year old tactics and bad science to hide this disaster,” said Jeton Ademaj of ACTUP.
ACTUP is demanding that NYC DOHMH publicize life-saving anti-HIV drug regimens such as PEP and PrEP to at-risk NYC communities, fund city HIV prevention and release accurate data. PEP and PrEP are life-saving drug regimens that can prevent HIV infection, yet few know about their availability. ACT UP claims the city has chosen not to alert citizens about either drug in hopes of stemming demand, even though knowledge of either drug can save lives.
They are also calling for more accurate data to be published, claiming that even though DOHMH makes a yearly estimate of new HIV cases in New York City, it fails to release it, and that when given a choice of competing HIV statistics, NYC DOHMH has chosen to publicly provide those that reflect better on the department, even if it puts the health and lives of New Yorkers at risk.
“As long as the NYC Dept of Health is lumping heterosexual HIV infection data together with LGBT HIV infection data, it will continue to ignore high-risk communities like trans-women and young gay men of color. Until that time, it’s not a stretch to call the DOH a racist, transphobic, and homophobic organization,” said Brandon Cuicchi, ACTUP member.
The latest DOHMH HIV data (for year 2008) estimated that more than 5 percent of New York City’s gay population is becoming HIV positive every year—nearly double the national average—while more than 11 percent of the black gay population is becoming positive every year. Yet NYC chooses to trumpet the fact that transmission rates are getting “no worse.”
The activists also explain the negligence behind the DOHMH’s allocation of existing prevention funds. “A small fraction of NYC’s HIV prevention services target gay men. Yet more than half of the new cases of HIV occur among gay men and transgender women,” said ACT UP member Jim Eigo. He added, “Unless the city begins dealing with this HIV prevention emergency today, the HIV caseload tomorrow will be enormous.”
Activists say that in the midst of a new HIV crisis that puts transgender women and young gay and bisexual men at more than 50 risk of HIV infection by age 50, the NYC DOHMH’s response has been characterized by ineptitude and inaction.
The protest at NYC DOHMH for failure to respond to the city’s HIV prevention crisis will be held at 42-09 28th Street, Long Island City, Queens, on August 15, 2013, at 1:00 P.M. – 2:00 P.M.