A few hours before joining thousands to march in New York City’s 45th annual Gay Pride Parade last Sunday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a plan to bring new HIV/AIDS cases below epidemic levels in the state by 2020.
“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,” said Cuomo.
This will happen through his “Bending the Curve” initiative, a three-point program through which Cuomo said his administration will improve HIV testing, prevent the spread of the disease and provide better treatment for people who have been infected. This means identifying persons with HIV who remain undiagnosed and linking them to health care; linking and retaining persons diagnosed with HIV to health care and getting them on anti-HIV therapy to maximize HIV virus suppression so they remain healthy and prevent further transmission; and providing access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for high-risk persons to keep them HIV-negative.
In his announcement, Cuomo said through his “comprehensive strategy, we’re decreasing new HIV infections by 2020, and the number of persons living with HIV in New York state will be reduced for the first time.” He added that New York has eliminated HIV transmission via blood products; nearly ended mother-to-child HIV transmission; and decreased new HIV diagnoses due to injection drug use by 96 percent since the mid-1990s.
The governor also stated that the state has seen a 40 percent reduction in new HIV cases and significant decreases in HIV incidences across all categories of race, ethnicity, gender, age and risk. For example, in 2014, there were 3,000 newly diagnosed HIV infections, down from 14,000 newly diagnosed AIDS cases in 1993. The goal is to reduce the number of new HIV infections to just 750 by 2020.
Bending the Curve was already approved in this year’s budget, which includes the removal of the requirement to have written consent to get an HIV test, the ability to find persons with HIV who have fallen out of care and to keep people who are infected off the streets by providing a 30 percent cap of the proportion of an HIV patient’s income that can be spent on rent.
In a statement, Charles King, the CEO of Housing Works, a New York City-based nonprofit that provides housing and medical support services for those living in New York with HIV/AIDS, 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.”