The Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building, Radio City Music Hall, along with other city landmarks will dim their lights tonight to honor World AIDS Day.
Tonight at 6 p.m., United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador Naomi Watts among others will kick off the global Lights for Rights campaign at Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village.
This year’s theme in the U.S. is “Facing Aids,” and in sticking to the theme, the city is urging New Yorkers to learn about their HIV status and take action.
“Despite the small possible decrease in total HIV diagnoses last year, nearly a quarter of new HIV diagnoses involved people who were already sick with AIDS,” New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said. “That means that roughly 1,000 New Yorkers went for years without the care and treatment they needed, and may have been unwittingly infecting others the whole time.”
Even though the number of new HIV diagnoses has been stable in recent years, the Health Department released a new report showing the city ‘s ongoing struggle to keep the HIV under control.
Nearly 4,000 new cases were diagnosed in 2007, and numbers for last year are coming in close, although the data hasn’t been finalized yet.
“Every day should be World AIDS Day, as this epidemic is far from over,” the Health Department’s assistant commissioner for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control, Monica Sweeney, said. “Unsafe behaviors continue in New York City, despite the life-altering consequences.”
The alarming trend that a growing proportion of new diagnoses are among men who have sex with men (MSM), accounting for 42 percent of new cases, up 5 percentage points from four years ago.
But city officials say New Yorkers have control over their own fate.
“New Yorkers need to face AIDS by using the tools readily available to prevent the spread of this infection,” Sweeney said. “MSM and others at risk need to use condoms consistently and choose fewer partners when they’re not in monogamous relationships.”
“I urge all New Yorkers to take responsibility for their own health – and their community’s wellbeing – by getting tested for HIV,” Farley said.
The Health Department will also provide free testing at sites across the city today.
For more information on HIV and AIDS, visit Health Department’s site.