Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced he is advancing a statewide expansion of the HIV/AIDS Services Administration rental assistance program for New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS. Additionally, the Governor announced the nation’s first state-level Hepatitis C comprehensive elimination strategy to end the Hepatitis C and HIV epidemics in New York State. The new effort aims to stop the Hepatitis C virus in its tracks by increasing access to medications that can cure Hepatitis C and expanding programs to connect New Yorkers in high-risk communities with wrap-around Hepatitis C prevention, screenings and treatment services.
The announcements build on the success of recent reductions in HIV diagnoses in New York to record lows and coincides with the release of the “Ending the Epidemic” progress report, which highlights the historic advancements New York is making to End the AIDS Epidemic by the end of 2020.
“The HIV/AIDS epidemic was a terrible tragedy in our nation’s history but make no mistake the Empire State has led the nation in ending the epidemic and helping New Yorkers lead long, healthy and happy lives,” Governor Cuomo said. “With our Ending the Epidemic Blueprint, we are making historic progress and I am proud that we have reached another milestone in our fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS. By expanding access to affordable housing and eliminating the spread of Hepatitis C, we will further build on the gains we’ve achieved and continue our historic march forward.”
In the FY 2018-19 Budget, the Governor is proposing a statewide expansion of the successful housing assistance program for persons living with HIV that first launched in New York City in 2016. The program would provide localities outside of New York City the option of capping the income contribution toward rental costs at 30 percent for all persons living with HIV in their communities. In addition, localities may budget and pay for up to 100 percent of fair market rent, with support of funds obtained through healthcare savings. This initiative will potentially impact 4,700 New Yorkers living with HIV outside of New York City.
To increase access to Hepatitis C (HCV) medications, the Governor is also proposing to increase funding for HCV prevention, testing and treatment programs, such as education, patient navigation, and HCV prevention programs in primary care and other settings. HCV-related deaths have exceeded HIV-related deaths in the state outside of New York City since 2007, and with injecting drug use as the most common risk factor, the opioid epidemic has fueled a rise in new HCV cases. One in five persons with HIV is co-infected with HCV, and studies show that over 90 percent of people who are treated can be cured of HCV. New direct-acting antiviral drugs have minimal side effects and can prevent the need for a liver transplant, cirrhosis, liver failure, liver cancer or death.
The announcements follow the release of the Ending the Epidemic 2018 Progress Report, which highlights New York’s nation-leading blueprint to tackle the AIDS epidemic which is on track to bend the curve and reduce the number of new HIV infections below the number of HIV-related deaths by the end of 2020, even while achieving zero AIDS mortality. As part of the Governor’s groundbreaking blueprint, the state has aggressively worked to identify persons with HIV who remain undiagnosed and link them to care; link and retain New Yorkers diagnosed with HIV with anti-HIV therapy to maximize HIV virus suppression so they remain healthy and prevent further transmission; and ensure access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis.
Under this aggressive approach, New York is making rapid progress. The Ending the Epidemic report details the remarkable advancements the state has made since the blueprint’s launch, including 75 percent of newly diagnosed New Yorkers demonstrating evidence of entry to care within 30 days of HIV-positive diagnosis. In fact, 80 percent of New Yorkers living with HIV showed evidence of receiving some care over the course of the year. Additionally, in 2016 approximately 70 percent of New Yorkers living with diagnosed HIV appeared to be virally suppressed.
New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership New York State has set a national standard for ending the AIDS epidemic, and we’re not stopping there. By providing better testing, increased access to screenings and treatment, collaboration with healthcare providers and the same aggressive approach, we are going to end the Hepatitis C epidemic as well.”
In 2014, Governor Cuomo announced a three-point plan to end the AIDS epidemic in New York State by the end of 2020. In December 2017, the Governor announced that the number of people newly diagnosed with HIV in New York State has fallen to historic lows. Between 2015 and 2016, there was a nine percent decrease in new diagnoses. The 2016 data show a 16 percent decrease in new diagnoses compared to 2014, the year the Governor announced the three-point plan. Additionally, groups that have historically been disproportionately impacted by HIV all experienced decreases in new infections.
In addition, the State has increased access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), ensuring there are PrEP prescribers in every county in the state. To further reach high-risk communities, the Department of Health is launching a project to identify Hispanic men who identify as gay or bisexual or other men who have sex with men through the use of molecular epidemiology. The goal is to provide access to interventions aimed at testing, linkage to care and viral suppression. The Department has also implemented a Rapid Access to Treatment (RapidTx) pilot for persons newly diagnosed with HIV, which has been successful in linking persons to care and treatment quickly, reaching viral suppression in just 41 days. The pilot is currently being expanded to additional provider sites.