The Brooklyn Hospital’s PATH Center was among the recipients of an award from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg at a commemoration of World AIDS Day on December 1st at the Brooklyn Public Library. The Mayor was joined by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley at the event, which officially launched Brooklyn Knows, a community-based testing effort that aims to help a half-million Brooklyn residents learn their HIV status over the next four years.Dr. Leonard Berkowitz, medical director of PATH, accepted a proclamation and a certificate for the PATH Center’s extraordinary work in helping New York City combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. PATH is among the participating agencies working to encourage HIV testing in 2011 as part of Brooklyn Knows.
Brooklyn has been heavily affected by HIV/AIDS over the past three decades and has some of the city’s highest prevalence rates. Nearly 87 percent of Brooklynites living with HIV/AIDSs are people of color. An estimated 27,000 Brooklyn residents were living with HIV/AIDS in 2008, and 1,027 were newly diagnosed. Currently, a quarter of the borough’s new diagnoses occur years after infection when HIV is already causing illness. And surveys suggest that 40% of Brooklyn adults have yet to receive an HIV test.
“The good news is there are great effective treatments for HIV/AIDS, and most people on medications do extremely well,” said Dr. Berkowitz, adding that PATH offers free HIV testing.
“However, we’re now seeing long-term side effects of these medications, such as more rapid aging and conditions like heart disease. Despite prevention efforts, every year there are 50,000 to 60,000 new cases of HIV in the United States and an inability to provide therapy for the millions of people who need it around the world. We must continue to focus on prevention.” According to Dr. Berkowtiz, there have been some very promising recent advances in the prevention of HIV/AIDS, including a new vaginal gel that helps prevent women from contracting the infection when male partners do not wear condoms, though he opposes the new HIV prevention pill.
“People may think this pill gives them permission to engage in high-risk sex, which is not true,” he says. “The pill does not completely protect against HIV/AIDs, has potential short- and long-term side effects, and puts people at risk for more highly resistant strains of the disease.”
As part of its prevention efforts, PATH offers free HIV testing on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at the PATH Center at 121 DeKalb Avenue on the corner of DeKalb and Ashland Avenues. Free testing is also offered Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons at 2222 Church Avenue. For additional information, call 718-250-6559 or 718-826-5600.