The number of Long Islanders with HIV or AIDS rose nearly 20% in 2022 compared with 2021, the region's second consecutive year of a double-digit uptick, with Black and Latino communities hit hardest, according to the state Health Department.
The 2022 HIV/AIDS Surveillance report, released Tuesday at the state's eighth annual "Ending the Epidemic Summit" in Albany, shows that while the number of new HIV diagnoses cases statewide decreased by more than 40% in the past decade, they were up by more than 9% last year, from 2,123 in 2021 to 2,318.
Meanwhile, the number of new AIDS diagnoses statewide remained steady, from 1,056 in 2021 to 1,060 in 2022.
A pandemic-fueled spike
Experts attribute the increase in HIV infections to the lingering effects of the pandemic, when many health care facilities were closed.
"There was this huge drop off of diagnosis, and there's definitely still some catching up from that," said Dr. Joseph McGowan, medical director of Northwell Health's HIV services. " … We're seeing this increased proportion of cases, especially among Hispanics. It may be there was a lack of access to testing as we were just getting going again in 2021 and 2022."
The highest number of Nassau cases, McGowan said, were in Freeport, Hempstead, Hicksville and Westbury. In Suffolk, the most cases came from Bay Shore, Brentwood, Central Islip and Huntington Station.
Drop in city cases
Separately, the New York City Health Department released its 2022 HIV Surveillance report Tuesday, showing a 2% drop in new HIV cases in the past year. Both the city and state reports were timed for release ahead of World AIDS Day on Friday.
In total, more than 104,000 New Yorkers were living with HIV or AIDS in 2022, including more than 5,400 on Long Island, the report found. If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS.
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. No effective cure currently exists but "with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website.
The Albany summit, which started Tuesday and concludes Thursday, is held to "celebrate achievements and hear personal stories from those who are living with HIV," said state Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald on the agency's website. The event is also focused on improving health equity in combating the virus.
While nearly 80% of all new HIV or AIDS cases were in New York City, the state reported 108 HIV or AIDS cases in Nassau in 2022 and 144 in Suffolk — up from 104 and 107 cases, respectively, one year earlier, the data shows. In total, HIV and AIDS cases increased 19.4% on Long Island last year, following a 17% hike in 2021, the report shows.
Individuals diagnosed with HIV and AIDS in the same year are counted twice, officials said, potentially inflating those numbers
Middle-aged men at risk
The majority of new infections on Long Island were middle-aged men with a history of male sex partners, researchers said.
Nearly 37% of Long Islanders living with diagnosed HIV were white and 34% were Black. Hispanics made up 24% of new HIV cases in 2022, constituting the fastest growing racial or ethnic group, according to data.
Joseph Kerwin, acting director of the state Department of Health's AIDS Institute, said new migrants played a role in that increase.
"We're seeing that a significant portion is attributed to the influx of the Venezuelan population and some of those Latin countries that are part of the migration movement," Kerwin said.
Proportionally, a Black Long Islander is seven times more likely to have been diagnosed with HIV as a white resident, the state data shows.
Experts say higher rates of poverty, housing insecurity and incarceration, and less access to health care, help explain the continuing chasm.
Deepa Rajulu, director of the division of epidemiology evaluation and partner services at the AIDS Institute, said "unfavorable social determinants of health continue to drive the inequities and the disparities that we see in HIV outcomes among these populations."
Roughly 75% of New Yorkers living with HIV are at least 40 years old but that trend seems to be shifting, the data shows, with nearly 69% of new cases occurring in individuals under age 40, Rajulu said.
More than 2,000 New Yorkers who had HIV or AIDS died in 2022 — a 12% drop from one year prior — including 40 deaths in Nassau and 43 in Suffolk, although some potentially from reasons other than the virus, the report found.
Correction: There were 2,318 new HIV diagnoses statewide in 2022 and more than 5,400 Long Islanders were living with HIV or AIDS that year. An earlier version of this story misstated those numbers.