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On Wednesday of last week, one of the finest people ever to serve in the state Legislature abruptly announced her retirement. Nettie Mayersohn, 86, served in the state Assembly for 28 years. In her nearly three decades in Albany, she worked for the people of her district. During that time, her dedication and integrity have never been questioned.
Upon hearing this news, state Sen. Toby Stavisky, whose district overlaps Mayersohn’s, said the assemblywoman “has impacted the lives of all New Yorkers as profoundly as few legislators have.”
Although Mayersohn fought many battles, she may best be remembered for her courage in authoring the Baby AIDS Law in 1996 and the HIV Partner Notification law in 1998. The Baby AIDS Law requires doctors to inform a mother if a baby is born HIV positive, even if she does not want to know.
The partner Notification Law requires doctors to notify the state Health Department when a patient tests positive for HIV. The law enables the department to interview HIV-positive individuals and either assist them in notifying their sexual partners themselves or may confidentially reach out to those known partners and tell them there is a reason to believe they have been exposed to the virus. This allows the partners to begin accessing care.
The liberal community and gay rights organizations were opposed to both bills. They feared the information-sharing would increase discrimination against people with AIDS. Mayersohn, who believed both bills would save lives, was not afraid to stand against people who for years had been her friends and supporters.
We are happy to hear from her representative that Mayersohn is “as strong as a horse” and is leaving the Legislature to be closer to her family. We join her constituents and colleagues in thanking her for her dedication, courage and service to Queens families.
In announcing her retirement, Mayersohn said her constituents “gave me the privilege of representing their interests for 28 years. I never took their support for granted and worked hard to ensure their continued trust. All I can say is thank you — I will never forget you.”
And they will not soon forget her.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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