On July 13, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York State is on track to End the AIDS Epidemic (EtE) and reduce the number of new HIV infections from 3,000 per year to fewer than 750 by the end of 2020, according to the latest data released by the New York State Department of Health. The number of New Yorkers living with HIV at detectable levels decreased by 10 percent between 2013 and 2014, and, as a result, two-thirds (66%) of New Yorkers living with HIV now have virus levels that are undetectable. During this same time period, the number of new HIV infections has fallen to fewer than 2,500—a record low.
People with low viral loads, or virally suppressed, are less likely to transmit HIV to others, which not only saves lives but helps to prevent the high long-term cost associated with new cases of HIV—an estimated half-million dollars in lifetime savings per case.
“We are working toward making New York, once the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic, a place where new infections are rare and those living with the disease can enjoy a full, normal and healthy life.”
“New York State is leading the fight against HIV and AIDS, and these results display extraordinary progress toward our overall goal of ending the epidemic,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “We are working toward making New York, once the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic, a place where new infections are rare and those living with the disease can enjoy a full, normal and healthy life.”
“It’s heartening to know that our hard work and the advocacy advanced by Governor Andrew Cuomo to End the Epidemic in New York by 2020 is getting results, and we applaud his leadership and vision,” said Doug Wirth, President and CEO of Amida Care, who served on the Governor’s EtE Task Force. “To keep the momentum going, we need continued investment of resources to expand focused services that will help us cross the finish line and end AIDS as an epidemic in New York. We can serve as a model for the nation. People living with HIV need access not only to clinicians and medications but to stable housing and employment that enables them to stay in care, become virally suppressed, and get about the business of living.” Amida Care has experienced impressive results firsthand—through our coordinated care model, we have achieved a 75% viral suppression rate among our HIV-positive members.
To end the AIDS epidemic, more work must be done to reach young men having sex with men (MSM) of color and transgender women, who are at greater risk of HIV infection. More on-the-ground outreach is essential to help them learn about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which has been shown to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing HIV infection and is a critical element of the EtE Blueprint goals.
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Medicaid Special Needs health Plans (SNPs) would be a great resource to support transgender individuals in living their authentic lives and remaining HIV negative. Amida Care’s SNP ensures that care is tailored to individual needs and connects members to housing, transportation, job training, and other supportive services.
Peer workforce development programs empower people living with HIV to gain job skills and help others get and stay in treatment to become virally suppressed. For example, Amida Care launched the Workforce Initiative Network (WIN) program in collaboration with Housing Works and ASCNYC to give people living with HIV/AIDS the tools to become successful job candidates and inspire others to take good care of themselves. These Peer Outreach Workers and Health Navigators helped Amida Care to re-engage over 1,000 HIV positive individuals who were at risk of dropping out of care or failed to refill lifesaving medications, many of whom were not undetectable and healthy.
“We know what it will take to see the Blueprint through and end the AIDS epidemic in New York: we have the know-how to bring more people living with HIV into care and help HIV negative people who are most at risk stay negative,” said Wirth.