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Cuomo Announces Next Steps for State's AIDS Reduction Plan

By Danielle Tcholakian | July 10, 2015 2:21pm | Updated on July 13, 2015 8:47am
 The governor outlined
The governor outlined "major steps" being taken to advance his "blueprint" to end AIDS by 2020.
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WEST VILLAGE — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday the next steps in his plan to end AIDS by 2020.

Cuomo's "Ending the Epidemic" plan includes 37 recommendations conceived by a task force of experts impaneled by the governor, focused on increasing testing, treatment and access to medication that helps at-risk people avoid infection.

It is expected to reduce the number of new HIV infections in New York to 750 by 2020, which would bring the rate below what is considered an epidemic.

The new developments the governor unveiled on Wednesday include:

► $3 million in funding to connect 1,000 of the most at-risk people — gay and bisexual men, transgender people, and people who are in a relationship with someone who is HIV-positive — to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a drug that helps prevent people from becoming infected.

► $600,000 for a public awareness campaign that involves ads and billboards all over the state promoting PrEP.

► Efforts to connect people to counseling and treatment, which the governor says is already happening in the New York prison system, where an estimated 1,000 inmates have HIV and are not receiving care.

► "Cross-referencing" between the state's Medicaid and HIV registries to find people who are not receiving treatment so they can be "provided with support to re-engage them in care and promote positive health outcomes" — a measure the governor's office expects will help some 10,000 New Yorkers.

► A state Department of Health review of records at hospitals and emergency rooms across New York to make sure all facilities are in compliance with a state law requiring every New Yorker between the ages of 13 and 64 to be offered an HIV test.

An analysis by some of the groups involved in the plan's conception found that its various elements will ultimately cost billions of dollars, but Cuomo only allocated $10 million in this year's state budget, and the state legislature refused to vote on any low- or no-cost measures to push the plan forward.

But, according to Capital New York, the state is addressing one of the most costly elements of the plan: Making medications more affordable.

The state's Medicaid director, Jason Helgerson, announced Wednesday that the state has "agreements in place with manufacturers that make up 90 percent of the [antiretroviral drug] market," Capital reported.

Under the agreements, which is expected to allow the state's Medicaid program to double the number of people on antiretrovirals, discounts will increase as the number of patients increase.

As Capital New York noted, there is still no plan in place to provide housing assistance for an estimated 6,000 HIV-positive New Yorkers — which, at an estimated price tag of at least $600 million, is the most costly of the task force's recommendations.

An estimated 80 percent of the state's AIDS population resides in New York City. The City Council dedicated $5 million in next year's budget for AIDS-related initiatives, and is hoping for an additional $5 million from the mayor, to match the state's $10 million allocation.

The mayor's office did not immediately respond to a request for an update, but has previously said that the mayor is still "waiting on details" from the governor on how the state funding will be spent.