While they expressed clear concerns, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn offered no specific plan for responding to a city report showing that new HIV diagnoses among gay men may be increasing.
“It is tragic to see the spread of HIV in countries where people don’t have an education and there aren’t good communications and hospitals and doctors,” the mayor said on June 25 before joining the LGBT Pride March. “To see it here in New York City, I think, is much more tragic because shame on us. We certainly should be able to stop the spread.”
On May 31, the city health department released a report showing that between 2001 and the first half of 2005 the proportion of new HIV diagnoses attributable to men who have sex with men (MSM) went from 26 percent of all new diagnoses to 39 percent. The department also reported that new HIV diagnoses increased among gay and bisexual men under 30 from 2001 to 2004 while new diagnoses among such men over 30 declined.
“Among young, black MSM under 30 there is an increase,” Dr. Lucia V. Torian, director of the health department’s HIV epidemiology program, told Gay City News. “There is an increase among young, Hispanic MSM and among young, white MSM.”
This could mean that all the gay and bisexual men over 30 who might be infected have been infected—that group is saturated—and the virus is now spreading in a population where there are uninfected bodies.
“There is a very big susceptible population,” Torian said referring to gay and bisexual men under 30.
The mayor cited a proposal by Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city’s health commissioner, to end written consent for HIV testing and require only verbal consent.
“What is incumbent on all of us is to make sure that everybody gets tested right away,” Bloomberg said. “That’s why Tom Frieden and I have pushed as hard as we can. Sadly, Albany did not come through with a bill that would have made it a lot easier to test. People are getting infected all the time needlessly because a lot of people with HIV do not know that they have it and they go about their lives.”
Quinn was equally concerned.
“The statistics that came out from the department of health are deeply, deeply troubling,” she said before joining the March. “They’re troubling because it’s clear that the message is not getting out to younger people in this city, the message about how severe HIV and AIDS can be if you contract it, the message that you can protect yourself and prevent that from happening.”
Quinn said that the City Council has “always made HIV/AIDS a priority” and added, “Since we haven’t finished the budget, I can’t comment specifically on what level we will do.”
The new city fiscal year begins on July 1 and Bloomberg said that he expected that the budget would not be late.
“We will come up with a budget on time,” he said. “It’s a pleasure to work with Christine Quinn and the City Council.”