December 1st is World AIDS Day—a day to learn the facts about how HIV is transmitted, how it can be prevented, and the reality of living with HIV today. This year’s theme, “Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation,” encourages everyone to understand their role in preventing and in raising awareness of the disease.
This is especially important in New York, which leads the nation in the number of new HIV cases. According to the New York State Department of Health, almost 4,000 New Yorkers will be infected with HIV this year. In New York City, these numbers are concentrated in the South Bronx, Central and East Harlem, Lower Manhattan and Central Brooklyn—all of which are served by SUS—though World AIDS Day is a call for the entire New York community to unite to fight against HIV/AIDS.
Preventing the spread of the virus is challenging given that one in five people living with HIV do not know their status. Many people are not proactive about getting tested due to the deep social stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. Fighting stigma is even more challenging for people living in isolation with little to no positive social structure or supports. Many people living with HIV/AIDS fall into a low socio-economic bracket and have histories of mental illness and substance abuse, while some have lost their jobs, homes, and are disconnected from friends and family.
World AIDS Day is an opportunity for people to show their support for these individuals who are often left on the sidelines. While SUS acknowledges December 1st as a day for the world to commemorate those who have fallen victim to the virus, our support of these individuals is demonstrated year-round. For those experiencing co-occurring challenges, SUS’ programs and services help to address both their disease and their environment.
The majority of individuals diagnosed with HIV/AIDS who come to SUS have a history of homelessness. SUS offers 6-month residential stays in Brooklyn and the Bronx to help them transition to permanent housing. In addition to on-site assistance provided by SUS’ care coordination team, SUS connects residents to community medical and rehabilitation resources to address their health and wellness needs. Through these support services, SUS’ AIDS Services provides a supportive, nonjudgmental community and fosters a culture of respect and understanding that helps them overcome barriers to leading the fulfilling life they deserve.
Follow SUS on Twitter @susincnyc and share your message about World AIDS Day using hashtag #FacingAIDS.