We keep hearing that the AIDS crisis is over. Well, I am here to tell you it is not. Last week I went to the last memorial service to be held at our current location before the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) moves to its new home at 446 West 33 St. The GMHC community marked the loss of 30 of our clients who died of complications due to HIV disease over the last 30 weeks. That's right. Every week for the last 30 weeks one of our clients lost their lives to HIV. I would hardly call this crisis over.
For many who are HIV positive, the success of new drug treatments has considerably extended their life span. This blessing brings with it new challenges. A generation of people over 50 is living with HIV, side by side with the health and social challenges that come with aging. Though there has been remarkable success with drug treatments that are prolonging some people's lives, they don't work for everyone. These treatments can also take their toll physically and for many cause untenable side effects. As well, there is a pressing need for research regarding the interaction of HIV drug treatment and chronic health conditions associated with aging such as heart disease and diabetes as reported by GMHC in: Growing Older with HIV. As well, cultural competency training for those who serve older people with HIV must be stepped up to meet these new demands.
I am equally concerned that so many young people in New York City are getting infected. Young Black and Latino gay and bisexual men, newly diagnosed as HIV positive, are among the hardest hit population in the United States according to the most recent report: Gay Men and HIV: An Urgent Priority. There is a dire need for comprehensive prevention programs that speak to young people in their own language. Prevention education must be prioritized and we hope our expanding Youth Leadership Development program will be a model for progress in this area. Youth need real HIV prevention education based on science not scare tactics. But they also need career development and the supports that bring increased self-esteem -- which lead directly to increased awareness and adherence to safe sex practices.
Above all, we know that while the crisis is not over there is still no cure in sight.
On April 29 GMHC, will be cutting the ribbon on our new home where we will continue to serve and address the needs of New Yorkers affected by HIV. GMHC is the nation's oldest and most comprehensive AIDS service organization, serving approximately 11,000 people living with or affected by HIV and AIDS and their families each year, and countless more through its prevention and advocacy work locally and nationally.
On May 15, we'll be out in force at AIDS Walk NY, walking to put an end to this epidemic. Come walk with me. Learn more. Register here.