December 1 marks World AIDS Day, an international day to raise awareness about the disease.
The theme of this year’s day of remembrance is equalize. Advocates want to improve access to testing and treatment for everyone.
Data from the city health department shows there was a 14% increase in the annual number of new HIV diagnoses in 2021 reported by the city.
Officials say the rise is atypical and likely due to the pandemic resulting in closed or paused medical services.
The city health department relaunched the community sexual health clinics that had been repurposed for COVID testing and vaccinations. The clinics offer a range of services for sexually transmitted diseases from testing to treatment.
Anyone aged 12 and up is eligible for service, regardless of immigration status.
"There's still a whole lot of people dying from HIV and AIDS and secondary conditions. There's still a lot of new cases out there," said Anthony Randolph, who lives with HIV.
Randolph was diagnosed in 2004, at the height of the HIV epidemic; 2.6 million people died from the disease that year and Randolph was one of roughly four million new infections globally.
Randolph now works as an advocate for the health care provider Harlem United.
"I would like to see that [officials] put the same energy on a vaccine for HIV like they did for COVID," Randolph said.
In the years leading to up to the COVID pandemic, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo set a goal to end AIDS in the state by 2020.
The plan called for reducing the rate of annual HIV infections from more than 3,000 per year to fewer than 750 by expanding services and outreach programs.
Last year, there were almost 1,600 new cases in the city alone.
“We need to make sure people don’t feel frightened or ashamed to come forward for treatment,” said CEO of The Elton John Foundation Anne Aslett.
The foundation is collaborating with Saks Fifth Avenue to light up the iconic storefront to help raise money in the race to end the disease by 2030.
“We have the medicine. We know what needs to be done. If we have the money and political will to change some of the environment in which people are very vulnerable to HIV are living, then I think we can see a huge change,” Aslett said.
For more information on the city’s sexual health clinic, head here.