US: NY Governor Cuomo Announces New Legislation to End the AIDS Epidemic in New York State

NY Governor Andrew M. Cuomo  (Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)

56th Governor of New York State, Andrew M. Cuomo, has announced that he is advancing legislation that would help achieve his goal of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York State through several new initiatives. These proposals will build on steps already taken that have made New York State a national leader in providing high quality treatment and support services to individuals infected with HIV/AIDS.

“New York State is leading by example in the fight against AIDS and the initiatives in this legislation are key to building on the progress we have already made” Governor Cuomo said.

“By increasing access to testing and breaking down barriers to treatment, New York has taken a holistic approach to ending the AIDS epidemic. We will not relent until this horrific disease is nothing but a distant memory.”

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker commented:

“We’ve made great strides in addressing the AIDS epidemic and have taken steps that will eventually lead to the end of the epidemic in New York State. Thanks to the leadership and resources provided by Governor Cuomo, our state is a national leader in the fight against AIDS. More New Yorkers are being tested, and more people with HIV are staying healthy because they now have access to treatment.”

Co-chair of the Ending the Epidemic Task Force and Housing Works, Inc. President and CEO Charles King was also pleased with the initiative:

“Housing Works is thrilled to see Governor Cuomo’s continued leadership toward Ending the AIDS Epidemic by 2020, advancing legislation that was identified in the EtE Blueprint as critical to achieving that goal.”

Governor Cuomo’s legislation would:

  • Increase the number of individuals who will be linked to and remain in care by allowing HIV-related information to be shared with care coordinators and care managers. Data sharing allows us to better understand the HIV epidemic in the state, improve patient outcomes, and prevent new infections. In 2014, a change in State law allowed for the sharing of data with medical providers to improve linkage and retention of HIV-infected persons in care. The bill builds on this statute to include care coordinators and care management systems.
  • Streamline HIV testing efforts and extend the upper age limit of the New York State HIV Testing Law beyond the current age of 64. Streamlining the HIV testing process and increasing access to HIV testing will allow more people to learn their status and protect their own health as well as their partner’s. Individuals who are infected but not on treatment are more likely to transmit the virus, and almost half of all new infections may be from persons who are unaware of their HIV status. In addition, early treatment improves the health of infected persons. Extending the upper age for the offer of an HIV test is necessary with half of all people living with diagnosed HIV infection in the State being age 50 and older. This measure would require the offer of an HIV test to all adults regardless of age.
  • Make clear that minors have the right to obtain life-saving HIV treatment and preventive services without parental consent, and ensure the confidentiality of such care. Although minors can obtain testing for STDs and HIV, as well as treatment for STDs without parental or guardian consent, they often cannot obtain treatment for HIV without consent of their parent or guardian. However, many new cases of HIV are among young persons and delaying treatment for HIV leads to disease progression as well as transmission of the virus to others. This measure will also allow young people at high risk who are negative to obtain pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication that helps HIV-negative individuals reduce their risk of becoming infected, so they can remain HIV negative.
  • Expand the opportunities for STD screening and access to post exposure prophylaxis to prevent infection. STD rates are increasing in New York, and there are currently more than 100,000 cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and Chlamydia. This measure proposes a change in scope of practice for registered nurses to screen for these STDs. The measure also increases access to Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) through pharmacies and will promote the use of PEP in emergency situations with referral and follow up for continued prevention support.

The legislation advanced by the Governor is just the latest effort 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 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 17 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.

The HIV Prevention Bill can be read HERE

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