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Push to increase HIV testing working

Ellen Abbott
Elizabeth Reddy of Upstate Medical University painting a red stripe on Salina Sreet in Syracuse as part of the Paint the Town Red public AIDS awareness campaign.

Finding out who tests positive for the H-I-V virus and getting them treated are cornerstones of a central New York strategy to meet the state’s goal of ending AIDS by 2020.  

HIV testing by ACR Health is already up 20 percent since December, after a new push to get more people tested according to Jeanette O’Connor-Shanley, the agency's director of support services. And when individuals test positive, they move on to the next part of their strategy to cut back on the number of new aids patients. 

"We link them to health care, as well as other services to help retain them in care, so care management, medical transportation, which is a huge issue in upstate New York, so providing them transportation to doctor’s appointments,” she said.

Continued medical care of individuals who test positive is important now more than ever, because medications can prevent spread of the disease according to Elizabeth Reddy, medical director of Upstate Medical University’s Designated AIDS Center.

"If you are actually living with HIV, and taking medication to control the virus, the risk of transmitting the disease to someone else is extremely low. And at the same time, there is now a medication available for people who are high risk for HIV, and by taking that medication, you reduce your risk of getting HIV by 90 percent,” said Reddy.

The third part of the strategy is to promote prevention through a number of programs, including a syringe exchange.  ACR Executive Director Michael Crinnin says he expects this strategy to work, taking New York to a future where new infections are rare, and people living with the disease  have normal lifespans.

“It’s not like we’re going to eliminate HIV, we’re going to reduce new infections to a point where it’s as manageable as TB,” said Crinnin.