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Health Department Announces Expansion of HIV Prevention Services for Young People

In recognition of National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the Health Department today announced two new clinics in Brooklyn which will provide young people ages 13 to 24 years HIV prevention services, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a safe and effective daily pill that greatly reduces the risk of HIV infection. The clinics – at New York City Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health East New York and Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Bushwick – will join three existing Health Department-funded clinics in delivering HIV screening, clinical services, and outreach to young people who may benefit from PrEP. To more effectively serve this population, the clinics offer co-located services, flexible appointment scheduling and extended walk-in capacity, and personalized communication, including by text message. The clinics are supported by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Ending the Epidemic plan, which aims to end the HIV epidemic in New York City by 2020, and First Lady Chirlane McCray’s NYC Unity Project, the first-ever citywide commitment to supporting and empowering LGBTQ young people.

“These two new clinics in Brooklyn will expand the number of teen-agers and young adults who have access to services that are flexible and personalized and provide them with the resources to better manage their sexual health,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “Expanding HIV prevention services is an important investment in the lives of young New Yorkers and a wonderful way to recognize National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.”

“PrEP is an effective tool that has helped to stop the transmission of HIV, and it should be accessible to our young people,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot.“These two new clinical sites will provide our city’s youth with resources that will encourage them to have safe and healthy sex lives.”

“The Health Department is thrilled to welcome New York City Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health East New York and Wyckoff Heights Medical Center to our PlaySure Network with the support of First Lady Chirlane McCray’s NYC Unity Project,” said Dr. Oni Blackstock, Assistant Commissioner for the Health Department’s Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control. “Together with our existing clinical sites focused on supporting biomedical prevention for young people, they represent the Health Department’s commitment to educating and empowering young people to make informed decisions about their sexual health and sexuality.”

Last year, the Health Department announced that 2,157 New Yorkers had been newly diagnosed with HIV in 2017, down 5.4 percent from 2016 and down 64 percent from 2001 when HIV case reporting began in New York State. The number of young people newly diagnosed with HIV in New York City continues to decline, too; in 2017, 427 13- to 24-year-olds were newly diagnosed, down 35 percent from 2001. 

As of December 2018, the Health Department’s existing clinics – Adolescent AIDS Program at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx, La Casa de Salud in the Bronx, and Project STAY (Services to Assist Youth) at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Upper Manhattan – had engaged 1,180 young people to assess whether they might benefit from HIV prevention services. Of these, 337 young people enrolled to receive an array of services to reduce barriers to care and address factors related to HIV risk. Of all enrollees, 44 percent were young Black and Latino cisgender men who have sex with men (MSM), a key success given that of the 427 New Yorkers ages 13 to 24 years newly diagnosed with HIV in 2017, 59 percent were among young Black and Latino cisgender MSM.

Services at the new and existing clinics include:

  • Targeted outreach, including the use of traditional and digital media to reach young people who may benefit from PrEP, including LGBTQ youth;
  • Assessment and education, including screening for PrEP awareness and candidacy, identifying young people’s psychosocial needs, and building their capacity to make healthy decisions about their sexuality;
  • Clinical services for PrEP and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), emergency medication for HIV-negative people who may have been exposed to HIV; and
  • Linkage and support services to assist young people initiate PrEP and remain engaged in care. 

The Health Department also offers clinic staff ongoing training and technical assistance on benefits navigation, intimate partner violence, taking a sexual history, and social media outreach. The clinics participate in the PlaySure Network, a citywide collaborative of Health Department-funded medical clinics and community-based organizations working together to increase access to HIV testing, treatment, and PrEP and PEP.

Use of social media is key to engaging young people on issues related to their sexual health. Montefiore’s Adolescent AIDS Program recently launched “Be You. Be HIV Free,” a dynamic youth-centered social media campaign funded by the Health Department. The clinic worked with over 60 young MSM of color and young trans women to develop the campaign’s messaging, images, and dissemination strategy based on their thoughts and concerns related to HIV and PrEP. Adolescent AIDS Program will promote the campaign through peer-led venue, event, and street outreach.

“Good marketing is essential for informing youth of any product or service, yet health programs rarely get the resources from funders to invest in professional marketing,” said Dr. Donna Futterman, Director of the Adolescent AIDS Program at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore. “We are extremely grateful to the New York City Health Department for their leadership and support of not only clinical services, but also of innovative marketing and outreach strategies that engage youth.”

“The young people we see at Project STAY continue to be at risk for HIV acquisition, especially those residing in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx,” said Caroline Carnevale, Principal Investigator and Nurse Practitioner at Project STAY at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. “Funding support from the New York City Health Department has allowed our program to expand exponentially and deliver comprehensive sexual health services, including PrEP and PEP, to young people where previously there were significant structural and financial barriers to providing these services.”

“We are pleased to be able to empower young people of East New York, particularly adolescents who identify as LGBTQ, with these added services,” said Michelle Lewis, CEO, New York City Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health.“Thanks to this grant support, our adolescent patients will have access to expanded HIV screening, treatment, prevention, and care coordination through the support of a dedicated social worker and other expert staff who understand their special needs.”

“Wyckoff Heights Medical Center is thrilled to receive this grant from the NYC Unity Project and New York City Health Department to expand our PrEP services for adolescents,” said Anca Giurgiulescu, Director of HIV, Hepatitis, and Sexual Health Services, and Antón Castellanos-Usigli, Director of Prevention Programs, at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center. “This funding will allow Wyckoff to build on our successful community-based model in order to engage adolescents in comprehensive and innovative services in HIV prevention and sexual health. We are especially motivated and happy to provide comprehensive sexual health and PrEP services to adolescents who identify as LGBTQ. Our current model has been especially effective in engaging young Hispanic and African-American people who identify as LGBTQ and is based on the use of mobile technology to conduct online outreach and education and training at our clinical sites to ensure a stigma-free space for all individuals who receive care at Wyckoff.”

“As we recognize National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day, I continue to be concerned that each year since 2013, Brooklyn has had more HIV diagnoses among youth aged 13-29 than any other borough,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “We owe it to our community’s young people to allow them to live in a world without AIDS. I thank the Health Department for their establishment of new clinics in Bushwick and East New York to help us expand access to PrEP, PEP, and other important HIV prevention services. Additionally, I support the expansion of Medicaid Special Needs Plans eligibility and outreach to communities of color in the hardest-hit parts of our city, to connect them to the services they need to get tested, treated, and enrolled.”

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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