New cases of HIV have reached an all-time low in New York City. The Health Department reports that 2,279 people were diagnosed with the virus in 2016, down 8.6 percent from the year prior. When the department first began tracking HIV cases in 2001, it counted 5,906 new infections.
One New York health official attributes to the increased use of a preventative drug called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. “The technology has landed, and implementation is moving quickly,” Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the Health Department’s Deputy Commissioner for Disease Control, told Jezebel. “Finally we’re seeing that the curve of decline is statistically significant. I think this is a harbinger of really good things to come.”
PrEP has been on the market since 2012, but is only recently beginning to gain traction among those at a high risk of HIV. The health department estimates that just five percent of men who have sex with men were on PrEP at the start of 2016; by the end of the year, that figure had ballooned to 30 percent.
New York City has pushed to make PrEP available to men of color—the group that has historically constituted the majority of new diagnoses. However, while contraction rates among men who have sex with men cratered dramatically—1,236 diagnoses in 2016 compared with 1,450 in 2015—the number of women to contract the virus rose slightly, with black and Latina women making up more than 90 percent of newly diagnosed cases.
To combat HIV among women, Daskalakis said that the agency will target women-focused providers, like OB-GYNs, and encourage them to prescribe PrEP to their patients.
“We’re going to really energize our next campaign to be very, very women focused,” he said. “We need to better with women, and so we will.”
Currently, the drug is available for free or low cost at the eight city-run clinics around Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.