2006-12-08 / Community

Senator Urges Reflection On World AIDS Day

To commemorate World AIDS Day on December 1, State Senator Malcolm A. Smith has called on New Yorkers, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation, to join together at precisely 9:11 a.m. to pray for the many people in our communities who are infected and affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

"World AIDS Day is a unique moment each year when all of humanity celebrates the progress we have made in the battle against AIDS, and brings attention to the enormous challenges still to come," Senator Smith said. "I applaud the Black Legislative Commission on AIDS of New York City for establishing this statewide moment of prayer."

Senator Smith noted that HIV and AIDS disproportionately affect diverse communities of color. In New York State, as of 2002, more than 157,000 people had been diagnosed with AIDS, while nearly 30,000 people live with HIV but had not progressed to full-blown AIDS. In both cases, about 45 percent of those affected were African-American and 30 percent were Hispanic. "Overcoming health disparities and promoting the health of all New Yorkers remains one of our State's foremost challenges," Senator Smith added. "We must address the disproportionate rate of AIDS deaths among minorities by doing a better job of identifying persons infected with HIV before they progress to AIDS."

Health officials estimate that up to 50,000 New Yorkers are infected with HIV but do not know it. Once infected, people may have no symptoms for 10 years or more. Without early treatment, however, most people infected with HIV, a virus that attacks the immune system, gradually become less able to fight off everyday germs, and progress to AIDS, a late stage of HIV disease. "With today's testing methods and medical care, this is a full-blown tragedy," the Queens lawmaker said.

To talk with someone about HIV or to ask questions, contact the toll-free Center for Disease Control (CDC) National AIDS Hotline, available 24 hours a day, at 1-800-342-2437; or the NYS HIV/AIDS hotline at 1-800-541-2437 (English) or 1-800-233-7432 (Spanish).

"We can all make a difference in overcoming injustice. This year, help reduce the stigma associated with AIDS." the Senator concluded.

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