MANHASSET, NY – As people across the globe mark the 26th annual World AIDS Day, a New York doctor who specializes in treating HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, says an end to the disease is becoming more of a reality.
“But the only way this is going to happen is if we continue to reach out to the community and help decrease the cases of new HIV by improving the diagnostics that we’re doing and by testing more people and using a whole range of new treatments that are available to prevent the transmission of HIV,” said David Rosenthal, DO, medical director, Center for Young Adult, Adolescent and Pediatric HIV for the North Shore-LIJ Health System.
Globally, more people are accessing treatment than becoming newly infected for the first time, according to the United Nations. The organization says almost 14 million people are on life-saving treatment and proclaims an end to AIDS as a global health threat by 2030.
Nationwide, an estimated 1.2 million people are infected with HIV, but 14 percent don't even know it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Closer to home, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has been touting a plan to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2020. His plan calls for identifying people undiagnosed with HIV and linking them to healthcare and getting them on anti-HIV therapies, including Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) .
“PrEP is a very important and exciting treatment modality. It allows us to give a medication to patients before they contract HIV if they’re participating in high-risk behaviors,” said Dr. Rosenthal. “Just like you take birth control pills before you would potentially get pregnant, you can take this medication to prevent yourself from getting HIV.”
More than 200,000 New Yorkers have been diagnosed with AIDS and more than 132,000 New Yorkers are living with HIV/AIDS.
Every person between the ages of 13 and 65 should be tested at least once, said Dr. Rosenthal. Those at risk should be tested more frequently. They include people who have shared needles, had sex without a condom or have a sexually transmitted disease.