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Strong Opposition to HIV Testing Bill (S.3293) Voiced by Community of Color Groups

Source:        Harlem United (http://www.harlemunited.org)

Contact:       Ms. Soraya Elcock, Deputy Director for Policy and Government Affairs

                   306 Lenox Avenue, 3rd Floor, New York, New York  10027

Telephone:   646-298-5154

Email:          esoraya@harlemunited.org



For Immediate Release: March 26, 2009



Strong Opposition to HIV Testing Bill (S.3293) Voiced by Community of Color Groups

Disproportionately impacted communities condemn bill as status quo


NEW YORK - Clearly, traditional HIV/AIDS testing models are not working in communities of color, which are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. In 2005, AIDS was the fourth leading cause of death among black men, third among black women, and fourth among Latino men and women.  To address this epidemic, immediate and real change is required.

Senator Tom Duane’s HIV testing bill (S.3293), which was voted out of the health committee this week, purports to routinize HIV testing in New York State. In actuality, the bill maintains the same barriers found in current legislation. Regulations today, and now proposed for tomorrow, prevent thousands of New Yorkers from knowing their HIV status and benefiting from early access to treatment and care.

Twenty-five percent of all people with HIV are unaware of their status and are unwittingly responsible for 54% of all new infections.  Blacks and Latinos represent over 80% of new infections.  In many cases their diagnoses are late, meaning that these individuals don’t receive an HIV test until after they are terminally ill.  These late diagnoses also result in people unwittingly continuing to spread the disease.
C. Virginia Fields, CEO and President of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS said,”Senator Duane’s proposed legislation does not go far enough. New York will be missing a critical opportunity to reduce HIV/AIDS infections – and possibly to halt the disease altogether.  Routine testing is proven effective at making early diagnoses, allowing more effective counseling and treatment that can greatly improve one’s chance of living healthier for longer.  This reduces the risk of infecting others, which reduces the overall community viral load.”

Patrick McGovern, Chief Executive Officer of Harlem United Community AIDS Center said, “Half measures on HIV are unacceptable.  Senator Duane is stalling the real change that can halt AIDS in communities of color. S.3293 doesn’t change anything, and New York’s black and Latino populations can’t afford for legislators to simply stick with the status quo.”
Dennis deLeon, President of the Latino Commission on AIDS, said, “At this moment in our fight against HIV, there is an unprecedented opportunity to suppress the spread of this disease, but for that to happen there must be a state-wide, coordinated and vigorous scale-up of routine HIV testing. With this expanded testing, there must be universal access to treatment and New York has neither.”

Mr. deLeon added, “S.3293 is not the right bill for New York. It is important that we have legislation that removes regulatory barriers to routinized HIV testing.  The lives of African Americans and Latinos depend on it.” 
The language of S.3293 is rooted in the perspective of the early days of the AIDS epidemic, when there were few legal protections and treatment options. The procedures it continues to enshrine result in a segregation of the HIV test and hinder routinization.
A compelling body of research shows that early treatment has optimal health benefits for HIV positive individuals. Research also shows that treatment reduces the individual's infectivity and thus reduces HIV incidence.
The potential to eradicate HIV/AIDS transmission has never been more real.  We must seize this opportunity to enact legislation that allows it to happen.  The status quo has proven ineffective; now is the time for true innovation.




Joe B. Pressley

Senior Director, Policy & Government Relations

Harlem United Community AIDS Center

306 Lenox Avenue, 2nd Floor (between 125th and 126th Streets)

New York, New York  10027

(212) 801-2455 - Work

(917) 628-4307 - Cell

(212) 801-2446 - Fax




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