The Bronx Knows was New York City’s first borough-wide HIV testing initiative
The Bronx Knows partners have conducted over 2 million HIV tests
July 19, 2018 – The Health Department announced the 10-year anniversary of The Bronx Knows, New York City’s first borough-wide HIV testing initiative. Since its 2008 launch, The Bronx Knows’ community partners have conducted more than 2.2 million HIV tests and helped link people who test positive to HIV care. The success of The Bronx Knows led to the launch of Brooklyn Knows in 2010. On World AIDS Day in 2014, the Health Department announced the citywide New York Knows initiative, which is now the nation’s largest local HIV testing initiative. This campaign increases HIV testing services across the five boroughs by offering all New Yorkers easy access to HIV testing and prevention services, identifying those who are undiagnosed with HIV and helping link them to care, and connecting those at risk of getting HIV to prevention services such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a safe, daily pill that greatly reduces the risk of HIV infection.
The Bronx Knows supports Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Ending the Epidemic (EtE) plan, which aims to end the HIV epidemic by 2020 in New York City and includes a $23 million annual investment to reduce the number of new HIV infections and ensure a strong Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) prevention infrastructure.
Although the annual number of new HIV diagnoses in New York City has declined citywide, HIV continues to affect many Bronx residents. In 2016, 520 people from the Bronx were newly diagnosed with HIV, making up nearly 23 percent of all New Yorkers newly diagnosed in 2016. In that same year, nearly 30,000 people in the Bronx were living with HIV, representing 2.5 percent of the Bronx population.
“In the last 10 years The Bronx Knows has conducted over 2 million HIV tests, enabling residents to know their status and take control of their health,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Although we have made great progress in reducing new HIV diagnoses citywide, we still have more work to do to in the Bronx and other communities that bear a high burden of HIV.”
“HIV testing is a gateway to HIV treatment and prevention services,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, Deputy Commissioner for the Health Department’s Division of Disease Control. “The Bronx has led the way globally with The Bronx Knows, demonstrating that community activation with support from the private and public sectors yields results. As the best tested jurisdiction in the world, I am proud of The Bronx Knows dream team that has helped make this happen.”
“Ensuring that more New Yorkers know their HIV status is the first step to ending the epidemic,” said Dr. Oni Blackstock, Assistant Commissioner for the Health Department’s Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control. “I commend The Bronx Knows staff and community partners for 10 years of excellent service to residents of the Bronx.”
“As an openly HIV positive elected official, I know the importance of getting tested and treated for HIV,” said Speaker Corey Johnson. “While we can be proud to take credit for the decline in new HIV diagnoses citywide, the Bronx is still seeing an increase in new HIV cases. In the 10 year anniversary of The Bronx Knows, I urge all New Yorkers to get tested and know their status. I want to thank Commissioner Bassett and all the health participants for ensuring this initiative continues to be a success.”
The Bronx Knows continues to enjoy support from local elected officials, including Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. The Borough President’s HIV Roundtable, founded in 2014, continues to bring together community members, providers, and government officials focused on ending the HIV epidemic in the Bronx. The Bronx Borough President’s Office presented a proclamation to The Bronx Knows staff during a celebration last night at The Dugout in the Bronx.
“The Bronx Knows has played a critical role in making Bronx residents aware of their HIV status, connecting them to treatment if needed and ensuring equal access to necessary services for all communities,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “I am proud to partner with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, as well as dozens of Bronx health and social service providers, on this initiative and I look forward to building it even stronger as we move forward.”
“I am proud to see the impact The Bronx Knows has made in raising awareness and knowledge of HIV,” said Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo. “Testing is an incredibly important step in eradicating HIV/AIDS. I am committed to continue supporting the mission of The Bronx Knows initiative and continue advocating in any way I can to continue lowering the rate of HIV in our community and beyond. This issue is personal to me as I had a daughter pass due to HIV/AIDS. Since those times, programs such as these have saved lives. We need to continue engaging the community as there is much work to be done. Congratulations on reaching this milestone and may we continue to work together to continue spreading awareness.”
The Bronx Knows has evolved into a multifaceted community engagement initiative driven by a diverse array of partners, including hospitals, community health centers, community-based organizations, faith-based groups, colleges and universities, and businesses. Most recently, The Bronx Knows hosted the “2018 Spring into Health” event in Fordham Plaza. The community event featured music and free giveaways; The Bronx Knows partners also provided health information and free health screenings.
The Bronx Knows has been a community-driven effort from the beginning. In early 2007, leaders from medical institutions and community-based organizations in the Bronx approached the Health Department about a borough-wide HIV testing initiative. The Health Department ultimately launched The Bronx Knows on National HIV Testing Day in 2008, with the initial goals of raising awareness of HIV testing in the Bronx and offering HIV tests to the estimated 250,000 Bronx residents who had never been tested. By 2011, nearly 80 agencies representing over 140 sites across the borough had partnered with the initiative, and reported having conducted over 607,000 HIV tests. Data from a large emergency department in the Bronx published earlier this year show that in 2015, approximately 5 percent of individuals with HIV were unaware of their status; this is a marked improvement from a 2010 serosurvey of another Bronx emergency department that found that an estimated 14 percent were unaware of their HIV-positive status.
“The Bronx Knows has taught the residents of the Bronx the importance of getting tested as well as raised awareness of HIV,” said Jane Bedell, Assistant Commissioner and Medical Director of the Center for Health Equity’s Bronx Neighborhood Health Action Center. “This initiative would not have been successful without the participation of dedicated community partners over the past 10 years.”
“I am proud to have been a part of The Bronx Knows and all that we accomplished together,” said Dr. M. Monica Sweeney, Former Assistant Commissioner for the Health Department’s Bureau of HIV/AIDS. “The model works and has been replicated many times. We are lucky to have such committed and passionate partners that will keep working until we end the HIV epidemic in New York City. Congratulations to all of The Bronx Knows partners, past and present, for 10 years of tremendous achievements.”
“For the past 10 years, The Bronx Knows has contributed to the success of ending the AIDS epidemic through its efforts to increase access to HIV testing,” said Socrates A. Caba, Community Advocate and The Bronx Knows Co-Chair. “This initiative has produced over two million HIV tests in the Bronx alone and created strategic pathways to linking people to care.”
“This amazing journey – 10 years and counting – is a result of the amity, zeal, and commitment of our 70 plus partners,” said Ralph Belloise, Director of HIV Services for SBH Health System in the Bronx and The Bronx Knows Co-Chair. “Far exceeding all expectations, we have our sights set on three million tests. This love fest continues with unbridled energy. The Bronx Knows rocks!”
“The Bronx Knows was the first initiative in New York City to challenge an entire borough to learn its HIV status. Born of a partnership between the New York City Health Department and medical and community providers, this program has successfully helped thousands of Bronxites learn their HIV status and get needed care or prevention,” said Dr. Donna Futterman, Director of the Adolescent AIDS Program at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore. “The tenth anniversary is a time to celebrate this incredible and ongoing partnership and recommit to the work of treating those with HIV and preventing any new infections.”
HIV Testing Sites
Getting an HIV test is the only way to #beHIVsure of your status. Knowing one’s HIV status can lead an individual to a long and healthy life. To find an HIV testing site, visit the NYC Health Map, call 311, or text TestNYC (SaberNYC para español) to 877-877.
The Health Department’s eight Sexual Health Clinics provide low- to no-cost services for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, as well as emergency contraception, vaccinations, and counseling services. Clinics see patients on a first come, first served basis. No appointment is necessary. Anyone aged 12 years and older can visit a clinic, regardless of immigration status. No parental/ guardian consent is necessary. Patients can still get services if they don’t have insurance or cannot pay the sliding scale fee.
In December 2015, the Health Department launched PlaySure – a novel health marketing campaign to prevent HIV and other STIs, followed by StaySure in 2016. The goal of these sex-positive campaigns is to reach all New Yorkers and encourage them to choose their preferred tools to prevent HIV and other STIs, regardless of their HIV status. To complement these efforts, the Health Department developed the PlaySure Kit, an innovative safer sex toolkit designed to hold everything New Yorkers need to play sure, such as condoms, lube, and the prevention pills of their choice (e.g., PrEP, PEP, or HIV medications). Since the PlaySure Kit was unveiled on World AIDS Day 2015, over 162,000 have been distributed. The kit helps New Yorkers design a safer sex plan that fits their lifestyles and needs. PlaySure Kits are available for free at the City’s Sexual Health Clinics as well as at participating community-based organizations and community events throughout the year. Distribution locations are also available by calling 311.