ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As this World AIDS Day is recognized this December 1, 2020, researchers and advocates are winning the fight to End the Epidemic in New York State.
Dr. William Valenti, Chief of Innovation and Senior Vice-President for Strategic Advancement at Rochester-based Trillium Health, discussed the fight against HIV and AIDS amid the COVID-19 pandemic Tuesday during News 8 at Noon.
“We have two pandemics going at the same time so it takes some reconfiguring of the way we take care of patients in order to do address both,” said Dr. Valenti. “We’re doing testing, we’re seeing patients doing video visits, those kinds of things and just meeting the challenge.”
An important milestone was achieved in the fight against AIDS in 2019. New York State reported fewer than 2,000 new infections statewide for the first time. When the End the Epidemic 2020 campaign was created, the target goal was fewer than 750 infections. “I think we’ll come in close,” Dr. Valenti said. “The results will be reported at a big Albany conference virtually later this week. For the first time last year, we were under 2,000 new infections statewide. I expect we’re going to be under 1,000 this year and be pretty close to that 750 target. But we’re also prepared to just continue to do the work until the work is done.”
The COVID pandemic forced the cancellation of many Trillium Health outreach events this year, including the annual summertime White Party, which serves as a vital fundraiser. This Saturday, December 5 at 7:00 p.m. the organization will hold a virtual fundraiser online. “The idea is to still try to bring people together because World AIDS Day is important to commemorate the past – it commemorates and honors people who have died – but it also looks to the future in terms of Ending the Epidemic,” explained Dr. Valenti. “An added feature this year is we’re going to do a preview, a book ready of a play that’s based on my book of 2017 ‘AIDS: A Matter of Urgency.’ That reading talks about the past, present, and future of HIV. It’s pretty moving and it paves the way for the longer feature sometime in 2021 when the COVID activity settles down.”
The title of the play matches the title of Saturday’s event – “Unfinished Business.” It will feature Rochester icon Mrs. Kasha Davis and can be seen on RCTV or on the “Friends of Trillium” Facebook page. Dr. Valenti hopes those who view the virtual fundraiser will take away an appreciation for what those who have been in the fight since the 1980s have been through, a sense of the huge progress that’s been made in terms of turning HIV into a chronic medical problem, and hope for the future. “If we can sustain the efforts of this End the Epidemic initiative in New York State we can get to zero.”
For more about the fundraiser and Trillium Health’s programs, visit TrilliumHealth.org.