In 2009, an estimated 1,148,200 adults and adolescents were living with HIV in the United States, and 81.9% were aware of their infection. Knowing one’s HIV status should be a critical personal health priority. People who learn early that they are infected with HIV can begin to access medical care and treatment that can improve their health and reduce the likelihood of transmitting HIV to others.
New York City (NYC) was among the first cities to be significantly affected by the HIV epidemic. Today, NYC has an HIV rate almost 2.5 times the national average.1, 2 The Bronx has been hit particularly hard; according to 2007 data, the Bronx (17% of NYC’s population) represented nearly a quarter of all HIV infections in NYC, and a third of HIV-related deaths.
To combat this serious and consistent public health threat, in 2008 the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene partnered with 78 community-based organizations, community health centers, hospitals, colleges and universities, and faith-based organizations to start a program called The Bronx Knows. Launched on National HIV Testing Day, The Bronx Knows leverages these partnerships to raise awareness for HIV testing, make HIV testing more accessible, promote testing as a routine part of medical care, and improve linkage of people diagnosed with HIV to appropriate medical care.
By emphasizing community engagement from its inception, and encouraging community ownership of the initiative and the health of its residents, The Bronx Knows brought together a variety of partners from across business, academia, medicine, and community-based organizations to successfully increase HIV testing, identify newly diagnosed HIV infections, and improve linkage to care for Bronx residents. By 2011, The Bronx Knows partners had conducted more than 600,000 HIV tests and identified more than 1,700 newly diagnosed HIV infections. More than 75% of these newly diagnosed people were linked to medical care.
2New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 2008