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Survey cites Jamaica as AIDS hot spot in Queens

AIDS has reached epidemic levels among minority women and children in some Queens neighborhoods, with nearly 50 percent of the borough’s cases reported in Jamaica and Woodside, a report issued by the United Way of New York City said.

The report, compiled with statistics from the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, shows AIDS has become the leading cause of death in women ages 25-34 and the second-leading cause of death for women ages 35-44 in New York City, affecting primarily minority women.

“AIDS in minority women in Queens has been rising, especially in our area,” said Dilcia Granville, co-chairwoman of the New York AIDS Health Fraud task force, based out of the Food and Drug Administration offices in Jamaica. “Our challenge is to educate these minority women and be proactive.”

The report also shows that adolescents are becoming infected at an earlier age, with half of the new infections appearing in patients under 25.

Queens ranks fourth among the boroughs in the number of living AIDS cases, with nearly 17,000 cases reported since the disease first appeared in 1981. Queens has more than 7,000 living AIDS cases, or about 15 percent of the city’s total cases, according to the Health Department.

The largest number of cases comes from the Jamaica area, which includes St. Albans and Hollis, with 3,244 adult AIDS cases, and western Queens, which includes Woodside, Maspeth, Corona and Elmhurst, reporting 4,671 adult cases.

In other neighborhoods, fewer cases have been reported. Long Island City and Astoria reported 1,749 cases, southwest Queens reported 1,592, southeast Queens had 1,180, and Ridgewood had 1,125 cases, according to the Health Department. The Rockaways, Flushing, Bayside, Little Neck and Fresh Meadows all reported fewer than 1,000 cases each, with the lowest number found in the Bayside/ Little Neck area, which reported 197 cases.

The report contradicts perceptions that AIDS has been brought under control through strides in treatment and a reduction in AIDS deaths, said Ana Oliveira, executive director of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

“United Way’s report speaks loudly to dispel the myth that HIV/AIDS is no longer a health crisis in the U.S. and in particular, in New York City,” she said in a statement from the United Way.

“It calls our attention to the challenges that we face 21 years into the epidemic with educating new generations, preventing new infections in youth, responding to the continued devastation of HIV/AIDS in the lives of women and families, and fighting the stigma associated with this epidemic.”

Granville has been working with the New York AIDS Health Fraud task force, a group of federal, state, and local health care providers and law enforcement agencies, to warn AIDS patients about fraudulent medications that promise treatment or cures they do not deliver. Some so-called medicines advertise miraculous results, but just shake patient confidence in doctor-prescribed medicinal regimes, she said.

“Our main goal is to tell the people with HIV or AIDS that there are certain things that do not work,” Granville said. “A lot of people are taking advantage of the condition of these illnesses by offering them products that they say will cure them. And then they get discouraged because they didn’t see any change.”

Before putting their hopes into a medicine that seems to good to be true, Granville said patients should do research and find out if it has been approved by the FDA. Patients should also ask about possible side effects and interactions, she said.

“There’s no cure for AIDS yet, but people do not know that,” Granville said.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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