hiv protection

February 7 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Some good news: HIV rates have decreased 66 percent among Black New Yorkers since 2001. Getting educated, tested and staying healthy with treatment are all easier than you might think.

Here’s what you can do:


Let’s stop HIV in New York City

  • If you are HIV-negative, PEP and PrEP can help you stay that way.
  • If you are HIV-positive, PEP and PrEP can help protect your partners.


Daily PrEP

PrEP is a daily pill that can help keep you HIV-negative as long as you take it every day.


Emergency PEP

If you are HIV-negative and think you were exposed to HIV, immediately go to a clinic or emergency room and ask for PEP (Post-exposure  Prophylaxis).

  • PEP can stop HIV if started within 36 hours of exposure.
  • You continue taking PEP for 28 days.

Many insurance plans including Medicaid cover PEP and PrEP. Assistance may be available if you are uninsured. Visit NYC Health’s website to find out where to get PrEP or PEP in New York City.
Why a Drug to Prevent HIV Infection Is in Low Demand
Even as public-health officials push wider use of PrEP to prevent HIV infection, some AIDS organizations lobby against the medication.
By Sumathi Reddy

Public-health officials are pushing for much wider use of a drug that has proved effective at preventing HIV infection.

PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a daily medication that people at high risk for HIV can take to protect against acquiring the virus, which causes AIDS. The drug Truvada was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012 for use as PrEP.  About 50,000 people a year in the U.S. become infected with HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Still, fewer than 22,000 people are estimated to have taken PrEP for prevention, according to an analysis this year in the journal Current Opinion in HIV and AIDS. AIDS remains a significant cause of death in certain populations although treatments have made living with the syndrome a reality for many.



Charlie Sheen confirmed his HIV-positive status in an interview with Matt Lauer on Tuesday’s Today. Sheen is not the first celebrity to do so. There may be many more to come. And no matter who decides to come out as HIV positive, their stories should be told with respect. 

Mic has decided to publish our HIV style guide to show journalists and readers alike how to respectfully talk about the disease:

  • HIV/AIDS - HIV is a virus, while AIDS is a diagnosis that some patients with HIV get after the virus has severely suppressed their immune system. People are “HIV positive” or “HIV negative,” and they either have AIDS or they do not. Do not say “full-blown AIDS” or similar; a person either meets the criteria for an AIDS diagnosis or does not. All people with AIDS have HIV, but not everyone with HIV has or ever develops AIDS. (See the CDC website for exact definitions of AIDS and other terms.)
  • Numbers - An estimated 1.2 million people are currently living with HIV in the U.S. The U.S. government estimates that 35 million people worldwide are living with HIV.
  • Drug abuser” and “drug addict” - The terms “drug abuser” and “drug addict” are derogatory and stigmatizing. If relevant, use “injecting drug user,” or if specifics are available, describe a person’s use of a particular substance.
  • “HIV-positive person” or “HIV-positive people” - In order to emphasize person-first language, use “person living with HIV” or “people living with HIV” when referencing a person. If the person has disclosed their name, write “Smith is living with HIV” or “Smith is HIV positive.”
  • “High-risk activity” or “high-risk group” - Avoid terms like “high-risk activity” or “high-risk group,” as they often stigmatize certain populations. People are not risks. If a person is engaging in an activity this is a “known risk factor,” describe it as such. Be as specific as possible for clarity: “Smith said he regularly injected heroin with unsterile needles and had sex without a condom, two behaviors known to be risk factors for HIV infection.”
  • A person does not “die from AIDS” - Because AIDS is a syndrome and not a disease or virus, a person does not “die of/from AIDS.” Instead, someone “dies from an AIDS-related illness” or “complications from AIDS.” Again, be specific where possible: “She contracted pneumonia shortly after her AIDS diagnosis.”
  • Antiretroviral therapy - People do not “treat AIDS.” “Antiretroviral therapy,” the use of one or several medications to keep HIV from replicating after infection, has been in use since the mid 1990s. There are currently more than 30 varieties of this medication, which aim to reduce the amount of HIV in one’s blood — as a syndrome, or collection of symptoms, AIDS itself cannot be treated. 
  • Sex work - “Sex worker” and “sex work” are the preferred terms. Also, “porn actor/ actress,” not “porn star,” are preferred terms.
  • “Unsafe sex” - In the age of post-exposure prophylaxis and pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as “PEP” or “PrEP,” protection from HIV does not always resemble a physical barrier. As such, avoid terms like “unsafe” or “unprotected” in discussions of sex. In writing about HIV, use the most specific term possible. “They had sex without a condom” is preferred to “They had unsafe sex.” Conversely, “safe sex” is somewhat of a misnomer; be specific in describing activities: “They had sex with a condom, and the HIV-negative partner takes PrEP daily.”

More on Sheen’s Today show appearance, including his discussion of being blackmailed, or read our full HIV style guide.

On Growing Up Bisexual

This got a bit long - so I’ll save details about what it’s like being a bi man and some of the unique things we face for another post. This is my perspective - if you grew up in a different area or in a different time then yours will likely be different.

School in the south, in the early 90s wasn’t exactly a bastion of progressive thought - so our exposure to sexuality consisted mostly of slides of STDs and being told (wrongly) that condoms couldn’t protect against HIV and if we had sex we’d basically all die. The girls were divided from the boys and I still have no idea what they were taught. We learned that boys liked girls, and that sometimes boys liked boys but that if you had sex with boys you’d get AIDS and die (see above).

Through this, we had a vague understand what it meant to be gay - and that you were straight or you were gay. Straight was right and gay was wrong - but I knew kids that were gay. Gay was a “Thing You Could Be”. You liked boys? You were gay. Puberty is a hell of a thing for a lot of people - trying to understand what was happening with basically no guidance from parents or teachers. Trying to understand why certain people elicited certain reactions in you. We’d go through this with our friends - pointing out girls we liked and bonding in some of the normalcy of the natural heterosexual way of things. For most of my friends, that was that.. girls were hot and guys were… not really a factor.

For me though.. guys WERE a factor. And I didn’t understand it - because I knew that you liked girls or you liked boys (non-binary exclusive language because we had no concept of non-binary genders, or trans) - so what the hell do I do with liking both?? How do I change in the gym locker room when I very much want to see everything and I’m not disgusted by it? And if I was gay.. then fine but I wasn’t! I knew I still liked girls! There was literally no frame of reference for what I was going through. I had no concept of what was happening, but I knew that I was broken.

My parents were very (especially for the area) liberal and open minded about being gay. They talked with me about it (as part of the sex talk) and led me to believe they’d be fine if I was gay and there was nothing wrong with it. I know in that sense that I’m more fortunate then a lot of boys growing up around me - but it was still presented in the binary Straight Or Gay, there wasn’t another option. So again I knew something was wrong with me because I wasn’t Straight Or Gay. I didn’t know how to process these feelings - and while I firmly believe that my parents would have been fine with me being gay I didn’t know how to approach them with.. whatever the hell I was.

As I grew older, we learned a bit more about the LGBT movement - the gay pride parades, something something Stonewall, “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it”, and the “born this way” narrative about how being gay isn’t a choice. We started hearing about the Gay Rights movement, and Gay Marriage. I knew more gay people, and gay couples. But in all that, I never saw myself. We had Ellen on TV coming out as a lesbian, but nothing about people like me. No characters in books, no characters on TV, nothing in the news - I was fairly confident that I would never find anyone who felt like me and that I’d just have to hide it and fake it one way or the other. I never really cared which gender I’d get involved with - and I figured that which ever it was I’d “be” that sexuality.

The first time I heard the word “bisexual” and understood that it meant liking men and women (narrow definition of the word used here because that’s what I understood it to mean at the time)… it was like the ringing of a bell. I actually cried because oh my god.. I wasn’t alone. There were people like me! There was a label I could use! I don’t know if it’s the same for gay people - but I suspect it’s close. I just wish it had happened when it would have given comfort to a scared 12 year old.

Fast forward a decade - I’ve lived a good chunk of my life as a closeted bisexual at this point. The Gay Rights movement has made tremendous strides - gay marriage is happening in more and more states (and I’ve moved to Canada where same sex marriage has been legal for a while now). There are gay people on TV! And in video games! But there is still no one like me. The word occasionally comes up, usually as a punchline, but everyone knows that women are all kinda bi and men aren’t really bi they are just lying about being gay. Prominent gay activists slam bisexuals as liars and cheaters (thanks Dan Savage). “Studies” show that men who “claim” to be bi aren’t really attracted to women they are attracted to men only (because hooking some stuff up to a penis and showing the kinds of porn commonly available is a TOTALLY LEGIT way of sensing arousal). And it’s always “Gay” rights. “Gay” marriage.

Organizations have sprung up, big ones! The movement is mainstream now. And nearly every one of them completely ignores my existence. GLSEN. GLAAD, and PFLAG.. the list goes on. Each of them forgetting about me. The organizers for pride parades saying that bisexual people don’t belong. There is a new thing in schools to help gay kids out.. Gay Straight Alliances. And they do wonderful work.. but they exclude me by definition. At best many of these organizations consider me to be an ‘ally’.. and straight people and allies have more recognition than bisexuals do.

I start to learn about the mental costs of hiding a secret for so long. I start treatment for my nearly lifelong depression. I start to learn about the statistics that go unspoken of. The ones that show bisexual people having far worse mental health than straight people, or lesbian and gay people. The ones that show the far higher rape statistics. The ones that show a tiny fraction of them as being “out of the closet”. I’m out online, and I start to learn first hand about the hatred we face from the people who are ostensibly in our own community. From people who are supposed to know what it’s like. I start to learn that my life experiences don’t matter because they don’t fall neatly into a Straight Or Gay box. That I’ll be called homophobic because I won’t “admit” that I’m gay. That bisexual men and women have been part of the LGBT movement since the very beginning but are nearly always labelled as gay or lesbian - or are erased completely. That bisexual people are in the media but are nearly always labelled as gay, lesbian, or straight based on who they are in a relationship with. That bisexual people have existed through history but have been erased.

And I get angry. And sad. My heart breaks to think of me as a child, wondering why he’s the only one. Why he’s broken. Things have improved so much since I was a child - but if I was a child now I still wouldn’t feel welcome in a GSA. That even if I knew what bisexual was I’d never feel welcome. And I know as an adult I don’t feel welcome. I get told to take my straight passing privilege and go to hell. “The closet” seems to be a concept that only gay and lesbian people can use. Hell - the local paper here covers pride parade every year and every year they let readers know that “LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Transgender and Two-spirit”.

Things are getting better - but we end up having to fight for recognition on two fronts.


Take Pride, Take Care: Transgender Health in New York City

Today marks the beginning of a simpler process for transgender individuals to change the gender marker listed on their NYC birth certificate. As of January 12, 2015, transgender New Yorkers born in NYC can change the gender marker on their birth certificates without undergoing convertive surgery.

In 2014, the NYC Health Department pushed for a change in the process that eliminates the proof of convertive surgery and a name change for individuals who want to change the sex listed on their birth certificates. The change was approved in December 2014 and went into effect today. The new correction form is available here.

Recognizing that New York City is home to a growing community of transgender individuals, today the NYC Health Department also launched a new Trans Health page on our website.

The webpages feature resources and information for transgender individuals on how to stay healthy, including:

  • Getting medical care regularly
  • Staying safe during transition
  • Protection against HIV
  • Getting treatment, if HIV positive

It also includes information about support groups and other resources for transgender individuals.

The new website also includes medical, legal and support services for trans persons in NYC.

The Take Pride, Take Care: Tips for Transgender Women’s Health brochure is also is available online.

More resources, including special resources for transgender men, coming later this year.

Take pride and take care! 

Monday, March 10 is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWAGHAAD) is a nationwide observance that encourages people to take action in the fight against HIV and raises awareness of its impact on women and girls.

 In New York City:

  • 1 out of every 5 new HIV cases is among women and girls
  • By the end of 2012, black and Latina women accounted for more than 91% of all new HIV cases among women
  • Women of all races and ethnicities can get HIV, but risks of HIV may be higher in some communities.
  • The only way to know your HIV status is to Get Tested!

NYC Health community partners are holding numerous NWAGHAAD testing and educational events this week. Check out events in your area, call 311 or text ‘testNYC’ to 877-877 for your nearest testing location!


Saturday, March 8

12-4pm: BOOM! Health will be at The Point, 940 Garrison Ave., Bronx, NY 10474

“Secrets of Our Daughters: The VOICE Within Speaks.” This event will address the problems minority women and girls face in the Bronx community related to HIV.

Free HIV testing will also be provided.


Sunday, March 9

10am-3pm: Bridging Access to Care will be at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church - 760 Dekalb Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11217

Free HIV testing will be provided.


Monday, March 10

10am-4:30pm: Harlem United Community AIDS Center, Inc. - 290 Lenox Ave., Lower Level, New York, NY 10027

Free HIV/STI/Hepatitis testing will be provided.

1-5pm: Voces Latinas will be along Roosevelt Avenue between 78th St. and 90th St, Queens, NY 11372

Voces Latinas will provide free information in Spanish focusing on  HIV and women, demonstrations of the female condom, and free HIV testing.


Thursday, March 13

6-8pm: Robert Fulton Terrace Council in collaboration with National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS of NYC, Uptown Health Link and BOOM! Health will be at 530 East 169th St., Bronx, NY 10456

“Teen Talk, That’s What’s Up! A Real Conversation about Sex and your Health.”  Free HIV testing will also be provided.


Saturday, March 15

10am-3pm: Bridging Access to Care will be at Berean Baptist Church 1635 Bergen St., Brooklyn, NY 11213

Free HIV testing will be provided.


To help stop HIV in NYC, remember to:

Get Tested – In addition to all the free testing locations listed above, you can also call 311 or text ‘testNYC’ to 877-877 to find local testing sites at any time throughout the year.

Get treated – If you are living with HIV or know someone who is living with HIV, get medical care. The sooner you begin treatment, the less HIV will damage your body. And if you take your HIV medications as prescribed, you are much less likely to pass HIV to your partners. For help finding care in NYC, text ‘CARE’ to 877-877.

Get Educated – Learn about the basics of HIV and AIDS in your local community.

Get Involved – Host an event, speak out, or volunteer with a local community organization that is working to combat HIV. Visit NYC Health’s HIV/AIDS information pages to learn more about HIV.

Stay Safe—Condoms provide excellent protection against HIV, other sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy. NYC Health distributes free condoms in over 3,500 locations throughout the five boroughs of NYC. Click here for more information about free NYC Condoms.

i just want to say that hiv+ mlm are always welcome here. i absolutely will not tolerate any serophobia on this blog. hiv+ mlm, whether they are open about it or not, are brave and amazing and deserve nothing but respect and admiration. even though i am hiv-, combating serophobia & homophobia is extremely important to me and i will do everything i can to support & protect hiv+ people, especially hiv+ mlm
The Pope drops Catholic ban on condoms

“After decades of fierce opposition to the use of all contraception, the Pontiff has ended the Church’s absolute ban on the use of condoms.

"He said it was acceptable to use a prophylactic when the sole intention was to “reduce the risk of infection” from Aids.

"While he restated the Catholic Church’s staunch objections to contraception because it believes that it interferes with the creation of life, he argued that using a condom to preserve life and avoid death could be a responsible act – even outside marriage.”
3 Big Breakthroughs Were Made This Week in the Battle Against HIV
  • Researchers in California have shown that the early treatment of a baby carrying HIV at birth with antiretroviral drugs has led to remission of the virus for the second time ever.
  • Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have described a potential new gene therapy for HIV patients in The New England Journal of Medicine. The study was inspired by the the first person to recover from HIV, Timothy Brown. Brown had his immune system wiped out during leukaemia treatment and was therefore transfused with donor bone-marrow stem cells. These cells carried a mutation in a gene called CCR5, which is found on T-cells and used by HIV as a gateway. People who have a mutation to this gene are resistant to HIV.
  • There’s also good news on the prevention front. In a study published in Science, researchers have shown that an experimental drug injected into the muscle of monkeys is able to confer temporary protection from HIV infection.

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