Governor Signs Landmark Legislation to Eliminate Barriers to Testing, Increase Access to Treatment, Advance Cutting-Edge Research and Expand Access to HIV Services for Youth Governor Sets Goal of Zero AIDS Mortality and Zero HIV Transmission Through Injection Drug Use By End of 2020, and Expanded Access to HIV Services for Youth New Initiatives Complement Unprecedented Success of Governor's Blueprint to End the Epidemic, Including Zero Cases of Mother to Child Transmission for an 18-Month Period for the First Time in State History Announcements Coincide with Formal Dedication Ceremony of State Supported New York City AIDS Memorial on World AIDS Day
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a series of groundbreaking new initiatives in the fight against AIDS – building on the state’s successful blueprint to end the epidemic by 2020. Earlier this week, the Governor signed comprehensive legislation to eliminate barriers to HIV testing and other sexually transmitted infections, increase access to prevention and treatment, and expand research capabilities. Governor Cuomo also called on the federal government to authorize $45 million in Medicaid matching funds for critical programs supporting the battle against AIDS.
Additionally, Governor Cuomo proposed a series of nation-leading statewide initiatives, including expanding access to life-saving HIV services to youth and setting a goal of zero AIDS mortality and zero HIV transmission through injection drug use by the end of 2020.
These latest actions build on major milestones achieved by the state, including zero cases of HIV transmission from mother to child for an 18-month period, and in just one year, an increase in the number of New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS who reached viral suppression by 6,000.
"The new AIDS Memorial is a tremendous tribute that serves as a painful reminder of all the lives we have lost to this horrible disease and as inspiration to keep fighting to end the AIDS epidemic once and for all," Governor Cuomo said. "The Ending the Epidemic Initiative has achieved historic gains, and with these aggressive new actions and new, far-reaching goals, we will continue to do everything in our power to end the AIDS epidemic in New York and forge a path for the rest of the world to follow."
New York City AIDS Memorial
The Governor made the announcement in conjunction with the formal dedication ceremony of the New York City AIDS Memorial on World AIDS Day.
The state secured $500,000 for the memorial, which sits at the gateway to a new park adjacent to the former St. Vincent’s Hospital. The site officially housed New York City’s largest AIDS ward, and is often considered to have been the epicenter of the crisis. The memorial is located less than a block from the LGBT Community Center, where ACT-UP was first organized.
New York City named the new park housing the Memorial the “New York City AIDS Memorial Park at St. Vincent’s Triangle,” making the Memorial and park the most significant public space in the city dedicated to HIV/AIDS. The memorial pays tribute to the more than 100,000 men, women and children who have lost their lives to the disease, and the heroic efforts of generations of healthcare professionals, activists and researchers who helped change the trajectory of the epidemic.
Earlier this week, Governor Cuomo signed into law landmark legislation that will increase access to testing and treatment for individuals living with HIV/AIDS. The legislation will:
- Eliminate barriers to HIV testing by streamlining the process and extending the requirement to offer HIV testing to persons beyond the current upper age limit of 64, continuing to normalize the offer and acceptance of HIV testing so individuals who remain undiagnosed are identified.
- Increase access to STD screening by allowing registered nurses to screen for syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.
- Increase access to post exposure prophylaxis by allowing pharmacists to dispense up to a seven day “starter kit.”
- Further research abilities by allowing disclosure of HIV/AIDS related medical information to approved researchers. It also eliminates barriers in HIV/AIDS research by expanding access to data which will allow researchers to learn more about how HIV/AIDS interacts with many medical conditions to improve patient outcomes and prevent new infections.
The Governor announced a series of new initiatives that will build on the progress under the End the Epidemic blueprint. These proposals include setting a goal of zero AIDS mortality and zero HIV transmission through injection drug use by the end of 2020. Moving toward these goals will involve launching a “sentinel event response,” similar to the project that was used to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. These projects address specific gaps in knowledge deemed critical to helping the State end the epidemic and involve fostering collaborations between researchers and policy makers.
The new initiatives will also include a proposal requiring that all types of service providers, care coordinators and care management systems track the viral suppression rates of the HIV-positive persons they serve, as well as ensuring that teens have the right to obtain life-saving HIV treatment and preventive services and safeguard the confidentiality of such care. This would expand access to HIV preventive services for youth at high risk, specifically post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, and pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, which is a once daily pill that protects individuals from HIV infection – an important prevention tool that is not currently available to them without parental consent.
The Governor also announced that the state is requesting approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for an amendment to its Partnership Plan Waiver to authorize federal Medicaid matching funds to advance the initiative to end AIDS as an epidemic in New York State. The amendment could bring $45 million in federal funds to aid in New York's efforts to end the epidemic. The funds will help expand programs that provide access to testing, PrEP, and PEP services, linkage to care initiatives, and address the social determinants of health.
Ending the Epidemic
The Governor’s Ending the Epidemic initiative has already had a tremendous impact across the state. For the first time in state history, there were no cases of HIV transmission from mother to child for an 18-month period. In addition, New York State has had great success in expanding access to preventive treatment. Prescriptions for PrEP have increased fourfold among people enrolled in Medicaid, and at the recent 21st International AIDS Conference, it was reported that New York leads the nation in the percent of at-risk individuals within the population on PrEP. Further, linkage to care efforts have had a success rate of about 75 percent, and in just one year, the number of persons with HIV/AIDS in the state who achieved viral suppression increased by 6,000, from 71,000 in 2013 to 77,000 in 2014.
New York State has led the nation in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Accomplishments include:
- 30 percent Rent Cap for people living with HIV/AIDS benefitting an estimated 10,000 New Yorkers
- $1.1 million to seven community organizations to help low-income individuals living with HIV/AIDS move into the workforce, expanding the eligibility for Emergency Shelter Assistance
- Making all HIV-positive individuals in NYC eligible for housing, transportation and nutritional support
- Peer certification initiative to improve health outcomes for people with HIV and those at high risk
- Negotiating deals with pharmaceutical manufacturers to reduce the price of antiretroviral treatments
- Laws to limit the admission of condoms in criminal proceedings for misdemeanor prostitution offenses, address the legality of syringes obtained through syringe access programs, and eliminate the need for written consent for HIV testing within correctional facilities.
- Rapid Access to Treatment pilot program to ensure immediate access to treatment for uninsured and underinsured persons newly diagnosed and those returning to care and will expand the program across the state
New York Health Commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker said, "I commend Governor Cuomo for continuing to take an aggressive approach towards ending the AIDS epidemic in New York State. I am honored today to remember the New Yorkers who have participated in the fight against AIDS, many who lost the battle, as we dedicate the New York City AIDS memorial. Together, we will make AIDS truly part of our past and not our future."
Senator Brad Hoylman said, “As we come together once again to commemorate World AIDS Day, we reflect on those we've lost, stand with those who continue to fight, and look forward to the day we finally overcome the scourge of HIV/AIDS. Thanks to New York State's unprecedented investment in drug innovation, cure research, housing assistance, and community outreach the end of the epidemic is surely within our grasp. But there's much more work to do, especially among communities of color. I'm extremely grateful to Governor Cuomo, Commissioner Zucker, the Ending the Epidemic Task Force, and the countless advocates and leaders whose path-breaking efforts have brought us to the brink of history in our fight against HIV/AIDS.”
Senator David J. Valesky said, "As a member of the Governor’s Ending the Epidemic Task Force, I heard first-hand how this disease has devastated individuals and families throughout our state. Too many people have been lost to AIDS, and state policies and legislation can help reverse this epidemic. I am pleased to see Governor Cuomo take aggressive action toward the goal of preventing new transmissions and ending AIDS mortality."
Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Committee on Health, said, "Each year, we commemorate World AIDS Day to remember those we’ve lost and renew our commitment to a future without HIV. New York State has been on the front lines of ending the epidemic, and that's in large part because of the lifesaving leadership of Governor Cuomo and his outstanding staff. I am confident that together we will end AIDS in New York State, and I look forward to partnering further with the Governor and his team to make this vision a reality."
New York State Office for the Aging Acting Director Greg Olsen said, "I applaud Governor Cuomo’s ongoing leadership in the fight against the AIDS epidemic. Half of all people living with a diagnosed HIV infection in New York State are age 50 and older, and approximately 200 cases of HIV are diagnosed each year in people age 60 and older. Older adults are often not aware of the multiple risk factors for HIV or ways to protect themselves, which may leave them vulnerable. Providing education, increasing research, and breaking down barriers to testing and treatment are key to building on the great strides New York State has already made toward ending this horrific disease."
Dr. Marjorie Hill, CEO, Joseph Addabbo Family Health Center, and Chair of the NYS AIDS Advisory Council said, "It is an honor to participate in this effort and more importantly, to witness Governor Cuomo’s steadfast leadership in ending the AIDS epidemic in NYS. This brave and amazingly achievable goal, will not happen by accident or by wishing it to be so. It will only happen with solid public health legislation, real resources, and active partnerships between government and activists. The Governor scores high marks on all three."
Dr. Donna Futterman, Professor of Clinical Pediatrics and Director of the Adolescent AIDS Program at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx said, "Young people are one of the fastest growing segments of the HIV-infected population, so we must eliminate all obstacles that prevent them from accessing care and prevention. I applaud the forward-thinking leadership Governor Cuomo and the DOH are providing by calling for an end to laws that prevent minor youth from consenting to HIV treatment and to highly effective new prevention medications—a barrier that doesn’t exist for other STIs. The Adolescent AIDS Program has provided care to over 650 HIV+ youth since 1989, and we have engaged many more youth in HIV prevention services. Unfortunately, many of these youth would have forgone our care and support if they had been required to tell their parents their sexual orientation or HIV status."
Co-chair of the AIDS Advisory Council Ending the Epidemic Subcommittee and Housing Works, Inc., President and CEO Charles King said, "I am thrilled to see the Governor has chosen to take implementation steps that extend beyond the original goal of ending the epidemic, to also end syringe transmission and AIDS mortality in New York State. These are both in reach and would be huge victories."
Glennda Testone, Executive Director of the New York LGBT Community Center, said, "From increasing access to life-saving treatment to expanding cutting-edge research, Governor Cuomo has been an unparalleled champion for the HIV/AIDS movement. The Ending the Epidemic Initiative has already achieved tremendous gains, but there is still work to be done. These latest bold actions will bring hope to countless New Yorkers who have been affected by this disease, and ensure our state continues to lead the way forward on this critical issue. I applaud Governor Cuomo for his goal of zero AIDS mortality and zero HIV transmissions through injection drug use by the end of 2020, and I look forward to seeing it realized in the years to come."
Kelsey Louie, CEO of GMHC, said, "Too many of us have lost loved ones to the AIDS epidemic that once devastated our state, but thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership, we are well on our way to ending the battle against this harrowing disease once and for all. From ensuring teens have access to life-saving treatment to eliminating barriers to HIV testing, New York is once again showing the nation the way forward on this critical issue. I’m proud to partner with Governor Cuomo as we work to end AIDS and make this epidemic a thing of the past."