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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 11 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 28
NY Governor announces plan to end HIV/AIDS
Section One
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NY Governor announces plan to end HIV/AIDS

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an ambitious plan to eradicate HIV/AIDS in his state in a June 30 press release.

'Thirty years ago, New York was the epicenter of the AIDS crisis - today I am proud to announce that we are in a position to be the first state in the nation committed to ending this epidemic,' Cuomo said. 'New York State has reached an important milestone in controlling the AIDS epidemic.'

Cuomo's 'Bending the Curve' initiative aims to eliminate HIV/AIDS in New York State by 2020 by doing three things:

o Identifying undiagnosed HIV-positive persons,

o Ensuring access to antiretroviral medications, and

o Providing access to PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) for high-risk populations.

Cuomo's plan would also streamline the process for ordering HIV tests during regular medical checkups and allow data gathered by the health department to be shared with healthcare providers, thus minimizing the number of patients that go without care.

In addition to providing the necessary medical support to curtail the epidemic, 'Bending The Curve' also seeks to provide critical quality of life support, an aspect of HIV treatment that is often overlooked, the governor noted.

With '[a] 30 percent cap of the proportion of an HIV patient's income that can be spent on rent,' the plan aims at eliminating situations in which people are forced to choose between healthcare and having a place to live.

According to the Governor's press release, 'the end of the HIV epidemic' means that point when 'the total number of new HIV infections has fallen below the number of HIV-related deaths.'

'The goal is ambitious, but grounded in reality,' said Mark Harrington, executive director of the Treatment Action Group, an AIDS research and policy think tank.

'[New York State has seen] an almost 40 percent decrease in new HIV diagnoses in the last decade, with fewer new infections each year, while nationally there has been no decline in the annual number of new HIV infections. With continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the State's successful Medicaid reform, we've gained the momentum necessary to put more people living with, and at risk for, HIV into primary care and the support services necessary to achieve success.'

Although the number of new HIV infections has been declining for a number of years, the total number of New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS has continued to increase. This is because people with HIV now live a normal life span and the number of HIV/AIDS deaths is also decreasing.

While the plan represents a major financial investment for New York State, if successful it will also allow for significant savings in healthcare costs. Each averted HIV infection saves almost $400,000 in lifetime medical costs, and by 2020, 'Bending the Curve' will save the State an additional $317 million and prevent more than 3,400 new cases of HIV.

HIV activists and social service providers applauded the Governor's announcement.

'We applaud the Governor for his decisive leadership and commitment to end AIDS as an epidemic on this 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a rallying cry to fight back against social injustice,' Gay Men's Health Crisis CEO Kelsey Louie said. 'The plan to end AIDS can hopefully result in a dramatic decrease in new infections among MSMs and transgender women, especially within the low income communities of color, some of our hardest hit populations.'

Housing Works CEO Charles King said, 'This step by Governor Cuomo, setting a clear goal to end the AIDS crisis in New York State, is absolutely courageous. In doing so, the Governor is reshaping the way we think about the AIDS epidemic and is setting a new standard for leaders of other jurisdictions in the United States and, indeed, around the world.'

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