NEW HYDE PARK, NY – A $2M grant to Northwell Health’s Center for Young Adult, Adolescent and Pediatric HIV Care aims to help curb the spread of HIV infection among at-risk individuals in Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties.
In Long Island and Queens respectively, there are about 5,900 people and 16,900 people, living with HIV. And, while the HIV/AIDS virus is decreasing in adults age 25 and older, it’s on the rise in the 13 to 24 demographic, explained David Rosenthal, DO, PhD, medical director for the Center for Young Adult, Adolescent and Pediatric HIV Care.
“We’re unfortunately seeing an increase in young people who are not having safe sex, and the methods we have used for many years have not decreased new cases of HIV in young adults,” said Dr. Rosenthal. “So the goal is to really target our HIV prevention tools to those people who need it the most. HIV is increasing the most in the community of young men who have sex with men and in heterosexual women of color.”
Over the next five years, the grant from the New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute will provide $400K yearly, split between Queens and Long Island for HIV prevention with PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). PrEP is part of a package for people who do not have HIV but who are at substantial risk of getting it to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day.
The pill – a combination of two HIV medicines and sold under the name Truvada – was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012 to help prevent an HIV-negative person from getting HIV from a partner who’s positive.
PrEP will be offered at three locations of Northwell Health: 865 Northern Blvd., Great Neck, 350 Community Drive, Manhasset, and Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York in Queens. Patients participating in PrEP will also undergo HIV counseling and testing, learn about safer sex practices and get access to condoms.
Part of the grant will also go toward educating healthcare and social service agencies in the community about PrEP, including educating other doctors and nurses about PrEP.
“Recently, data came out from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that 1 in 3 doctors and nurses are not aware of PrEP,” said Dr. Rosenthal. “Working with community-based physicians and agencies is really the best way to bring people in for treatment.”
Partnerships with Pride for Youth, a project of the Long Island Crisis Center, and with the Queens Pride House will allow for peers to aid in HIV prevention.
PrEP is a cornerstone of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s initiative to “End the Epidemic” and end HIV/AIDS in New York State by 2020. Currently, there are 129,000 New Yorkers living with HIV throughout the state.