Town Hall Meeting to Discuss Drastic Cuts to City’s HIV Testing and STD Screening Programs
ACT UP\New York and TAG to Host Town Hall Meeting to Discuss Drastic Cuts to City’s HIV Testing and STD Screening Programs
NEW YORK CITY – AUGUST 31, 2015– In response to disturbing trends in New York City’s response to the ongoing HIV and STD epidemics, ACT UP\New York and Treatment Action Group (TAG) will host a town hall meeting at the New York City LGBT Center on 13th Street in Manhattan at 6:30 PM on September 1, 2015. ACT UP and TAG seek to push the de Blasio administration to mitigate the massive citywide reduction of sexual health services in recent years, including the March 2015 closure of the Chelsea STD Clinic.
Starting in 2010, the City Government and its Health Department have significantly reduced vital services for the screening, treatment, and control of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). This has included a drastic reduction in the number of HIV tests the City funds and performs.
The cuts resulted in a total of over 400,000 HIV tests being eliminated between 2010 and 2014, possibly resulting in the missed or delayed diagnosis of thousands of HIV-positive New Yorkers.
“Eliminating a hundred thousand HIV tests a year” explained James Krellenstein, a member of ACT UP\New York and a consultant for TAG, “is a decision that could directly result in excess HIV infections citywide.”
The City’s cuts to STD services also resulted in 40,000 fewer patients being seen at the City’s nine STD clinics each year. At the same time, the City’s gonorrhea and syphilis epidemics have been spreading out of control—syphilis diagnoses in men increased by a third from 2010 to 2014 and gonorrhea cases in men increased by more than 40%.
"Back in the bad old days, ACT UP and its allies were used to expecting the worst from the NYC Department of Health”, said Mark Harrington, the Executive Director of TAG and a member of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s End the Epidemic Task Force. “Fast-forward three decades and AIDS activists are deeply disappointed that the ostensibly progressive new Mayoralty of Bill De Blasio and his lead public health official Mary Bassett have exhibited poor leadership and defective decision-making when it comes to addressing some of NYC's most pressing health needs, such as the combined threat posed by the intertwining HIV and syphilis epidemics.”
Further exacerbating the crisis, in March of this year, the Health Department shut down the Chelsea Clinic--the busiest public STD clinic in the city, representing more than a fifth of STD clinic visits citywide—for multi-year renovations, with no announcement and no plans to replace the lost testing and treatment capacity in the neighborhood. Despite activists’ success in securing a commitment for additional funding from the City Council, the Health Department has refused to build a temporary clinic facility onsite. Since the closure of the Chelsea clinic, the number of visits to city STD clinics has decreased by 18%.
“The closing of the Chelsea Clinic has become an ongoing disaster on the part of the City’s Health Department.” stated Andrew Velez, a longtime member of ACT UP\New York. “That it follows on decades of neglect by the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations does not excuse the continuing health failures of the de Blasio administration. In order to end the HIV/AIDS and STD epidemics, the buck has to stop here and now. Community involvement is essential to accomplishing that.”
About ACT UP
Founded in 1987, ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), is a diverse, non-partisan group of individuals united in anger and committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis. ACT UP meets every Monday night in New York City at the LGBT Community Center, 208 West 13th Street off 7th Ave.
Treatment Action Group is an independent AIDS research and policy think tank fighting for better treatment, a vaccine, and a cure for AIDS.