Governor Cuomo’s Plan to End AIDS

On behalf of the thousands served by Harlem United, we applaud Governor Cuomo’s bold endorsement of the Plan to End AIDS in New York State, announced yesterday, just hours before the 45th annual Gay Pride Parade. The Plan, called ‘Bending the Curve,’ aims to identify, track, and treat people with HIV, with the goal of ending the AIDS epidemic in New York State by 2020. This announcement makes New York State the first jurisdiction in the world to commit publicly to the effort to end AIDS.

“While we are heartened by the progress we have made in confronting AIDS in New York State, we know that we still face an epidemic of unacceptable proportions, especially among young gay men and men who have sex with men in the transgender community, and among black and Latina women,” said Jacquelyn Kilmer, Chief Operating Officer of Harlem United. “An effective plan to end AIDS will make strategic investments in prevention and focus on strengthening care systems. Harlem United hopes that the Governor’s announcement moves these ideas from rhetoric and platitude to action.”

Senator Bill Perkins, an early endorser of the Plan, is thrilled at the prospect for real collaboration on the issue in New York State. “Collectively, we have arrived at a watershed moment in our 30-year quest to bring the AIDS epidemic to an end in New York State. Due to intense focus, targeted investment, and tireless work over the past three decades—by noble and pioneering organizations such as Harlem United—we now have the knowledge and means to enact crucial life-saving measures to dramatically reduce new HIV infections and promote optimal health for those with HIV/AIDS.  This means that we can say, with confidence, words that were unthinkable years ago: we will end AIDS in New York State!  I will remain steadfast in my advocacy for essential legislative and budgetary initiatives that will both ‘bend the curve’ and forever save lives as we enact our Plan to End AIDS.”

According to the Governor’s Office, the three-pronged plan focuses on preventing the spread of HIV, testing, and providing access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for high-risk people. Harlem United is particularly hopeful of the promise that PrEP holds as a powerful part of combination prevention and as a means to slow new infections in our communities. The Plan to End AIDS should re-energize the prevention narrative and make full use of PrEP, as well as other biomedical prevention interventions, ultimately supporting scale-up of PrEP awareness and availability in New York State.

Harlem United joins other organizations in the community urging the Governor to appoint a high-level task force to architect the Plan. “We look forward to working with the government and the medical and social services community to harness the best of what we know to bring the HIV and AIDS epidemic in New York State to a true tipping point – where the number of people getting treated for HIV exceeds the number of people infected,” said Kilmer.

Harlem United’s fight to end AIDS, begun nearly 27 years ago, emerged in response to the epidemic’s devastating impact on the homeless, substance users, and communities of color in New York City. As the Governor’s Office reported, over the past decade, New York State has seen a 40 percent drop in new HIV cases and significant decreases in HIV incidence across all categories of race, ethnicity, gender, age, and risk. Still, there is tremendous work to be done. Currently, there are over 22,000 people living with HIV in New York State who are unaware of their status—a staggering number that reminds us of a real need for continued prevention efforts. ‘Bending the Curve’ is the most aggressive effort to-date, and the one that has gained most ground. “Recent policies have given the Plan the momentum it needs to succeed,” said Kilmer, referring to the 30% rent cap giving affordable housing protection for low-income New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS, and the May 2014 public health law to simplify HIV testing consent. “We thank Governor Cuomo, not only for his shared leadership and courage for the people of this state, but for the example he sets for other jurisdictions across the country and around the world.”

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