World AIDS Day Commemorated

Governor Andrew Cuomo has put the word out. He wants to eradicate the AIDS epidemic by the end of 2020. One piece of good news detailed by state health department officials is there have been no reported cases of the HIV virus transmitted from an HIV positive mother to her child for an 18-month period from 2014 – 2016.

In order to eliminate the HIV virus in New York state some medical experts believe HIV tests have to a routine part of a patients’ annual physical exam, which also includes a complete blood count test as well as tests for lipids, liver status, kidney function, cholesterol, the metabolic panel and even Hepatitis C.

“The result is that people who have HIV still don’t know it so their own health suffers and the chance to pass it on to someone else is pretty high,” says Dr. Donna Futterman, professor in the department of Pediatrics (Adolescent Medicine) at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine as well as being the director of the Adolescent AIDS Program in the department of Pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital in Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.

Dr. Donna Futterman

“There are gay and transgender people in the Orthodox community or even people who use drugs and use needles. The Jewish community should not be kidding themselves that they are immune to this.”

Dr. David Rosenthal, medical director for the Center for Young Adult, Adolescent and Pediatric HIV at Northwell Health, formerly known as North Shore-L.I.J. Hospital, agrees with Futterman that testing needs to be a routine part of a medical exam without a doctor having to ask a patient for permission to test for HIV.

Dr. David Rosenthal

“The approach that I use for all of my patients is that knowledge is power,” Rosenthal said. “The more that you know you can then use that information that is bright. You’ve got to have say-chel (common sense) about this.”

One slight complication, however, is the reluctance by the spiritual leaders in the observant Jewish communities of Crown Heights, Midwood, Williamsburg, Boro Park in Brooklyn and neighborhoods in Queens willing to discuss the matter with their congregants.


Johanne Morne

“The opportunity to work with leadership is where we see our abilities to actually make a difference in these insular communities,” AIDS Institute Director Johanne Morne told “It’s important for us to work with leadership within those communities because certainly the message as it relates to sexual health, is going to be heard better from leaders or from individuals who are seen as safe or trusting.

“All we can do is provide education, access and awareness of resources that are available for individuals who may see themselves at risk or who are living with HIV. We have a faith initiative within the AIDS Institute that’s been established for many years,” Morne added.

Everyone has a status for HIV, Morne says hers is negative but everyone should know their own status by being tested.