State’s AIDS Institute Issues Clinical Guidance Recommending All HIV-Related Care be Initiated Immediately Upon Diagnosis – OTDA Significantly Expanding Eligibility For Emergency Shelter Allowance Expanding Preventative Care is a Vital Component of Governor Cuomo’s Unprecedented Commitment to End the AIDS Epidemic in New York
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced all HIV-positive individuals in New York City will become eligible to receive housing, transportation and nutritional support. The significant expansion of eligibility for Emergency Shelter Assistance is a result of a policy issued by the State Department of Health’s AIDS Institute that eliminates the technical distinction between those who are considered in need of care and those who are not. It has long been proven that all individuals who are diagnosed with HIV – whether they show symptoms or do not – benefit from receiving care.
“With today’s compassionate and common sense guidance, we are creating a better future for all New Yorkers living with an HIV positive diagnosis,” Governor Cuomo said. “Our commitment to fighting this disease is unrelenting and guided by our remembrance of those we lost. Every individual living with HIV should have access to life-saving care, regardless of whether or not they are symptomatic of the disease at that moment.”
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said: “New York was once the epicenter of the AIDS crisis, but we have made remarkable progress to reverse that trajectory, and get New Yorkers the proper care and treatment they need to live healthier lives. I commend Governor Cuomo and the AIDS Institute for recognizing the need to expand access to every HIV positive individual and continue the momentum to end the epidemic once and for all.”
Today, it is common knowledge and consistent with recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that care and treatment should begin immediately upon diagnosis of HIV in order to achieve viral load suppression. For this reason, HIV status is the current standard by which determinations are made for eligibility to receive care and treatment in a broad array of programs.
However in New York City, benefits for housing, transportation and nutrition are unnecessarily restricted to individuals on public assistance pursuant to obsolete terms such as “symptomatic” HIV or AIDS, and who are receiving HASA services. The guidance issued by the AIDS Institute, available here, clearly confirms that, to the extent permitted by law, the terms “clinical/symptomatic HIV illness or AIDS”, “AIDS or HIV-related illness”, and other similar terms shall mean laboratory-confirmed HIV diagnosis.
Consistent with the policy statement, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance has determined that those diagnosed with HIV will be eligible for Emergency Shelter Allowance, which includes a monthly transportation and nutrition allowance as well as a 30% income contribution cap toward rental costs for New York City Public Assistance recipients.
The new rule will go into effect in 60 days.
Working to Ending the AIDS Epidemic
This Policy Statement aligns with Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Ending the AIDS Epidemic initiative, which is working to increase access to testing and treatment in order to reduce the number of new HIV infections from an estimated 3,000 annually to just 750 by the end of 2020. These efforts have already had an impact. For the first time since the start of the epidemic there were no cases of HIV transmission from mother to child for more than 18 months.
Since the Governor first announced his plan to end the AIDS epidemic in New York, the State has had great success in expanding treatment. Prescriptions for PrEP have more than tripled among people enrolled in Medicaid and the state has committed $3 million in funding to continue expanding access.
In addition to the $2.5 billion that the State commits annually to fight AIDS, more than $20 million in new funding has been dedicated to multiple program initiatives. Use of these dollars has also helped identify more than 6,000 HIV positive patients who were not receiving care, and will be provided with the support and treatment they need to suppress the virus.
State Senator Brad Hoylman said: "Thanks to Governor Cuomo, no longer will low-income New York City residents need to have advanced cases of AIDS to qualify for housing assistance from the HIV/AIDS Services Administration. The Governor's actions today are recognition that one of the best tools for ending the epidemic is providing stable, affordable housing, which leads to better health outcomes for people living with HIV/AIDS and fewer transmissions. I'm extremely grateful to Governor Cuomo for this forward-thinking initiative."
State Assembly Member Deborah Glick said: “As we continue to confront HIV & AIDS, today's announcement by Governor Cuomo will dramatically improve the lives of so many New Yorkers. The constellation of supports offered will address essential needs that have in too many cases undermined individuals' health.”
New York City Council Member and Chair of the Committee on Health Corey Johnson said: “I thank Governor Cuomo and the AIDS Institute for displaying incredible leadership and expanding HASA eligibility to all low-income, HIV-positive New Yorkers. The bottom line is that housing equals healthcare. Expanding eligibility will truly save lives and make a profoundly positive impact on some of our most vulnerable citizens. This is an important step in our fight to end the epidemic by 2020.”
Charles King, President and CEO of Housing Works, Inc said: “We have long known that lack of safe, stable housing is a formidable barrier to care for many New Yorkers with HIV. Expanding access to the State’s HIV rental assistance program was a key recommendation of the Governor’s Blueprint for Ending the Epidemic by 2020 – so that every HIV+ person can benefit from the early treatment that sustains health and prevents ongoing HIV transmission. I applaud Governor Cuomo’s announcement of a change to State regulations to extend eligibility for the rental assistance to all homeless New Yorkers with HIV infection. We look forward to working with the State and our local partners to make sure that all New Yorkers receive the assistance that they need. We thank the Governor for this bold and significant step forward.”
Kelsey Louie, CEO of Gay Men’s Health Crisis said: "Governor Cuomo’s action on housing is the right step forward to realizing our goal of ending the epidemic in New York State. The road to ending the epidemic is full of twists and turns, but we must not lose sight of the fact that New York is leading the country in both the development and implementation of our End the Epidemic plan. The country and the world are watching what we are doing in New York, and gratefully they see action on the part of our executive when our legislature falls short."
Jacquelyn Kilmer, CEO of Harlem United said: “On behalf of the over 16,000 New Yorkers served by Harlem United, I want to thank Governor Andrew Cuomo for acknowledging in both word and action that housing is health care. This is why -- since 1991 -- Harlem United has provided supportive housing to people living with HIV and AIDS. With to-day’s announcement, Governor Cuomo enabled our state to take a giant leap towards ending the AIDS epidemic.”
Glennda Testone, Executive Director of The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center said: “With Governor Cuomo’s laudable announcement of HASA for all, we take significant strides forward in achieving the end of AIDS in New York State. When New Yorkers lack stable housing, it becomes exponentially more difficult to stay in care and stay on the medications that prevent the advancement of the disease and the spread of HIV. This action represents a firm and clear commitment from the Governor to the Ending the Epidemic Blueprint and moves us that much closer to the end of AIDS.”