TOP IMAGE: Program Manager Esther talking about the importance of PrEP
World AIDS Day, observed each year on December 1, is a reminder for us all to unite in the fight against HIV, show support for people living with HIV, and remember those who have died from an HIV-related illness.
There is still no vaccine, and there is still no cure for HIV. Those who have unprotected sex and share unsafe needles remain at risk. Accurate, non-judgmental health education, rapid testing, early and sustained treatment, and supportive care to ensure that people have stable, healthy living conditions—these things remain our guardrails against an expansion of the epidemic and another public health crisis.
For almost 40 years, the Alliance for Positive Health has been delivering these education and supportive care services in partnership with healthcare providers to reach those most at risk and help them overcome barriers to the support they need. We have been part of New York State’s successful approach to reducing new HIV infections and engaging more of those living with HIV in ongoing care. Yet, the COVID-19 epidemic has taught us that the work is not done. Testing levels fell, and the percentage of those living with HIV but not in care increased.
The two most effective ways to reduce HIV transmission in any community are:
- To identify persons with HIV who remain undiagnosed through testing and link them to health care, and
Engage those diagnosed with HIV in care to maximize virus suppression to remain healthy and prevent further transmission.
- If someone living with HIV has undetectable levels of the virus because they are on regular treatment and still engages in behaviors that could put others at risk, they will not transmit the virus to others. HIV care is also HIV prevention.
The Alliance of Positive Health services are designed to support these two priorities. Our education and testing are targeted at those having high risk, unprotected sex, and sharing unsafe needles. Our housing, care coordination, nutrition, and insurance assistance programs link persons living with HIV to necessary health care and other services that support them in living an improved, healthy lifestyle. We also work with special populations, such as those incarcerated and at risk for HIV (and Hepatitis C) or living with HIV (and/or Hepatitis C), to ensure they can stay healthy through difficult circumstances.
Our success in working with hard-to-reach, marginalized groups that often experience stigma and distrust has given us the responsibility to educate and test for other sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis which is increasing at alarming rates, and Hepatitis C. It has given us the responsibility to educate about MPV (monkeypox) and link people to vaccination and care. It has led us to work closely in coordinating care for many with mental health and substance use conditions, regardless of whether they are living with HIV. It has also brought us face-to-face with the opioid epidemic fueled by the use of illegal substances.
The Alliance for Positive Health brings a harm reduction approach to all our work. We do not judge anyone, and we work with people wherever they are at the time, helping them move forward in their lives at their own speed and in their own way. The goal is to reduce the harm caused by any one behavior, improving safety for an individual and the community. This approach has been essential for our work with substance users as we have expanded from syringe exchange for HIV prevention to Narcan training and supply for opioid overdose prevention to harm reduction counseling.
The Alliance for Positive Health is the community leader linking at-risk residents to life-saving care in 17 Northeastern New York counties.
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The mission of the Alliance for Positive Health is to reduce the impact and incidence of HIV/AIDS and other serious medical and social conditions.