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Photo by Emil Cohen/New York City Council
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer speaks at the unveiling of the DOH campaign "Living Sure," which promotes the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV.

In the days leading up to International Women’s Day on March 8, the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOH) announced the launch of its new “Living Sure” campaign to encourage women, including cisgender and transgender women, to consider an HIV prevention medication as part of their sexual health plan.

The campaign was unveiled at Planned Parenthood of NYC’s Diane L. Max Health Center in Long Island City on March 6 and will include signage in local newspapers, subway cars, subway stations, buses and bus shelters across the city, as well as on social media. The focus of the campaign is pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily pill that greatly reduces the risk of HIV infection.

“While we have made historic progress in reducing HIV diagnoses in this city, we will not rest until that progress is felt equally in every community,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “PrEP has proven to be an essential part of a sexual health plan, and raising awareness among women will push us closer to finally ending this epidemic.

Despite reaching a record-low number of new HIV diagnoses in the city in 2016, there was a 5 percent increase in new diagnoses among women compared to 2015, and Black and Latina women made up over 90 percent of all women who were newly diagnosed. According to the DOH, a recent study of over 600 ambulatory care practices in New York City found that while PrEP prescribing rates increased 976 percent from 2014 to 2016, women received only 5 percent of PrEP prescriptions in mid-2016.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who spoke at the unveiling, said that he takes great pride in joining his colleagues in the city government to combat the transmission of HIV.

“The ‘Living Sure’ campaign is an important next step to reaching populations that are at risk for infection but who are not yet familiar with PrEP and its benefits,” Van Bramer said in a press release. “We are living in a time where not one more person needs to be diagnosed with HIV and I’ll keep fighting to make that a reality.”

The Living Sure campaign is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Ending the Epidemic (EtE) plan, which includes a $23 million investment to reduce the number of new HIV infections and support the prevention of sexually transmitted infections overall. In 2016, the all-time low number of newly diagnosed people was 2,279, a decrease of 8.6 percent from 2015, according to the DOH. Since de Blasio announced EtE in 2015, the city expanded hours of operations and clinical services at sexual health clinics while offering PrEP initiation and linkage to care for patients.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said in a statement that the DOH and Health Commissioner Bassett deserve to be commended for launching the “Living Sure” campaign.

“When it comes to combating HIV, it is important to use every tool available,” Katz said in the statement. “That’s why it is important to raise awareness about PrEP and its effectiveness in reducing the risk of HIV infection.”

The goal of EtE is to end the HIV epidemic in the city by the year 2020. This summer, the city will launch another campaign focused on women’s health care providers, consisting of one-on-one educational visits to practices.

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