NYC Health Dept Celebrates Valentine’s Day And National Condom Awareness Day

February 12, 2016

image004In recognition of Valentine’s Day and National Condom Awareness Day, Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett today announced the public launch of the #PlaySure kit, a #PlaySure kit media campaign, new condom distribution data, and additional focus on HIV prevention. The new safer sex kits are just one component of the city’s effort to effectively end the AIDS epidemic; the Health Department announced last week an increase in STD clinic hours. The NYC Plan to End the Epidemic includes a $23 million investment in FY2017 to increase HIV prevention and health care programming that will benefit nearly 200,000 New Yorkers per year when fully implemented. The plan aims to decrease HIV transmission in New York City by reducing the number of new annual HIV infections, part of a statewide goal of no more than 750 cases per year by 2020.

The #PlaySure kit is an innovate safer sex tool that holds everything New Yorkers need to #PlaySure – the kit can hold condoms, lubricant, and the prevention pill of a person’s choice (PrEP, HIV medication, and/or birth control). The goal of the kit was to allow users to design the safer sex kit that fit their lifestyle and needs. A prototype #PlaySure kit was originally unveiled on World AIDS Day. Starting this Sunday, New Yorkers will be able to locate a limited number of #PlaySure kits on the NYC Condom Finder App. Locations will also be available by calling 311. This spring kits will be available at multiple community-based organizations, city STD clinics, and several community events in each of the five boroughs.

“I am proud that the Health Department continues to be on the frontlines in the fight against HIV and other STIs. The #PlaySure kit is a new, innovative and classy tool that New Yorkers can use to play safe and be sure,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “In 2014, HIV diagnoses reached a new low in New York City. We still have more work to do, but I am confident that together, we will reach our goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by the end of this decade.” 

The Health Department has also received funds from the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) to focus specific efforts in Brooklyn to better coordinate care. The CDC grant allocates $2.3 million per year for four years, and will support comprehensive HIV prevention, care, behavioral health, and social services for men who have sex with men that are at risk for or are living with HIV infection. The Health Department will leverage collaborations created by an existing HIV testing initiative, Brooklyn Knows, to support vital services in Brooklyn. The agency will be supporting referral and linkage to prevention services such as PrEP and PEP, referral and linkage to care services, and also referral to social services. 

 Keith Haring artwork ©Keith Haring Foundation

“We’re excited to make it even more convenient for New Yorkers to #PlaySure this Valentine’s Day. New Yorkers now have a stylish and practical way to carry the tools they need for optimum sexual health,” said Deputy Health Commissioner for Disease Control Dr. Jay Varma.

In December 2015, the Health Department launched #PlaySure – a new HIV and STI prevention campaign. The Health Department is updating the campaign to include the #PlaySure kit in its advertising. #PlaySure was developed to send sex-positive and empowering messages to all New Yorkers regardless of their HIV status.   Pre-exposure prophylaxis (known as PrEP), HIV treatment, and the NYC Condom together create a toolkit for HIV prevention and sexual health. To #PlaySure aims to set aside fear, and replace it with communication, honesty, and the tools we know can stop HIV and STIs. The goal of this campaign is to reach all New Yorkers where they are and allows them to choose the HIV and STI prevention tools that work for them, regardless of their HIV status.

“The #PlaySure kit represents a contemporary HIV prevention message for New Yorkers.  Conceived by one of my patients living with HIV, the kit’s message is that the best way to #PlaySure and prevent HIV and sexually transmitted infections, is to combine tools in the prevention toolkit that work for your life,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, Assistant Commissioner for the Health Department’s Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control. “New Yorkers living with HIV should treat their HIV to keep themselves and their partner healthy.  HIV negative people who may be at risk of HIV exposure should consider Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to avoid infection.  To prevent other STIs, condoms and lubricant are an important part of a comprehensive prevention plan.  The #PlaySure kit puts all these tools in one convenient place so New Yorkers can really customize their HIV and STI prevention plan, one that fits their lives.  Combining these tools with frequent testing for HIV and STI round out a strategy that will help NYC be HIV and STI sure.”

In 2015, the Health Department and its partners distributed more than 60 million male and female condoms. More than 252 million condoms have been distributed since the condom program began in 2007 – nearly 50 condoms for every adult man and woman. NYC gives out nearly 99,000 free condoms every day, which includes branded NYC Condoms and non-branded condoms. The NYC Condom Finder app, the Health Department’s app to find free condoms across the city, has been downloaded more than 40,000 times since it was launched in 2011.

“NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest provider of HIV primary care in New York State, and performs about 200,000 HIV tests annually,” said Dr. Ram Raju, President and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals.  “All of our hospitals are state-designated AIDS Centers with an HIV team to provide patients with a full range of affordable care, including long-term or home care, counseling, education and medication management.  In addition we are a leader in HIV and STD prevention, distributing over a million free condoms each year to New Yorkers.  We are very pleased to join this effort to limit the transmission of these diseases.”

“Helping New Yorkers stay safe while they’re having fun is a good thing,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health.

“National Condom Awareness Day is an opportunity to engage with New Yorkers about the importance of safer sex,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Council’s Committee on Health. “The #PlaySure kit is an innovative approach to HIV prevention, giving New Yorkers another tool to stay healthy.  I applaud the Health Department for its efforts, and I thank Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, Dr. Jay Varma and Dr. Demetre Daskalakis for their leadership in the fight against HIV and AIDS.”

“We know that one of the most important factors in preventing the spread of HIV and other STIs is access to condoms and preventative drugs like PrEP, which has been shown to reduce the risk of infection by more than 90 percent,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman. “The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s PlaySure Kit is a cool, compact way to make it easier for the LGBT community to practice stigma-free safer sex. I’m grateful to Mayor de Blasio and DOHMH for this innovation and challenging outdated views of LGBT sex. As a result, we’ll help conquer the AIDS epidemic and the public health will be vastly improved.”

“We commend the New York City Health Department for launching the #PlaySure kit in conjunction with Condom Awareness Day, making it easier for New Yorkers to stay safe when it comes to HIV and STI prevention. We know condoms, lubricant and prevention pills like PrEP are critical and effective when it comes to HIV prevention, and GMHC is proud to continue the work we do to promote the use of these tools,” said GMHC CEO Kelsey Louie. “With this launch we are one step closer to achieving our collective goal of ending the epidemic in New York State by 2020 and we look forward to working with the City and State to make this goal a reality.”

“Housing Works commends the NYC Health Department for this sex-positive, practical approach to promoting sexual health,” said Housing Works President & CEO Charles King. “Whether you use the #PlaySure kit to store lube, condoms, and/or PrEP to stay HIV-negative, or your HIV meds to stay undetectable and protect your partner if you’re HIV-positive, sexual health is about being direct, well-informed, and responsible. The kit sends a message to all New Yorkers that having fun and taking responsibility for your sexual health aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s about knowing all the options, being prepared, and making informed, adult choices that work for you and your partner. We’re thrilled to use the kit to jumpstart dialogues about optimal sexual health at all of Housing Works’ Community Healthcare Centers, especially around newer prevention services like PrEP and PEP. These tools, combined with expanded access to HIV and STI testing and HIV treatment, are critical to enabling us to achieve our historic goal of ending the AIDS epidemic in New York by 2020.”

“CAMBA and our Condom Distribution Program are excited to be joining the Health Department on National Condom Awareness Day and the re-launch of its newest HIV prevention tool, the PlaySure Kit. It is essential that our Brooklyn communities, with some of the highest HIV rates in the city, learn about all the prevention options available,” saidLeonardo Cambar, Assistant Program Manager at CAMBA. “The new PlaySure Kit is a tangible, fun and sex-positive way to get the message across that you have choices, whether its HIV meds if you’re positive, PrEP and PEP to stay negative, consistent condom use or a combination of methods. This re-launch will give us a great opportunity to engage community members in a dialogue, especially about new technologies like PrEP, and to help them access the prevention services that are right for them.”

“Enhancing condom distribution by offering unique solutions keeps HIV and STI prevention dynamic and iterative. Washington Heights CORNER Project is excited to work with the NYC Health Department for the #PlaySure kit launch because their strategy is in line with our priority: our community,” said Sarah Deutsch, Associate Director of Outreach and Prevention Services for Washington Heights CORNER Project.

“We are proud to support the #PlaySure campaign and the new #PlaySure kit.  We support a variety of prevention interventions because different interventions work for different people, and we must meet people where they’re at,” said Nunzio Signorella, Chief Program Officer and Executive Vice President of BOOM!Health.

“We are always delighted to work with the NYC Health Department to bring this new and exciting prevention tool to our community members,” said Carlos M. Cubas, Program Coordinator of Queens Pride House.

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