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During a Political Pride March, Advocates Urge Added Actions to End NY State’s AIDS Epidemic

During a Political Pride March, Advocates Urge Added Actions to End NY State’s AIDS Epidemic

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sunday, June 25, 2017

CONTACT: Mikola De Roo, Housing Works, 347-585-6051, m.deroo@housingworks.org
Elizabeth Koke, Housing Works, 646-372-9639, e.koke@housingworks.org

DURING A POLITICAL PRIDE MARCH, ADVOCATES URGE ADDITIONAL ACTIONS TO END THE STATE’S AIDS EPIDEMIC

New York, NY – On June 25, 2017, the day of the NYC Pride March, a statewide group of AIDS advocates and LGBT health and service providers highlighted the recent successes of New York State’s initiative to end its HIV/AIDS epidemic and explained the urgent actions that are needed for the Governor and State Legislature to fully implement the State’s Ending the Epidemic (ETE) Blueprint.

“During NYC’s Pride March we must remember that the HIV/AIDS epidemic has disproportionately devastated our State’s LGBT communities and communities of color,” said Charles King, CEO and President of Housing Works. “Each year since announcing New York State’s commitment to end AIDS as an epidemic by 2020, Governor Cuomo has taken deliberate steps to fully implement the ETE Blueprint and is now very close to taking every action within the Executive’s power to do so—his continued leadership is appreciated and it is critical. But we must also call on the State Assembly and Senate to take action, as they have still not passed legislation necessary to implement key ETE Blueprint recommendations.”

The ETE initiative has already demonstrated stunning early successes. Surveillance data show that NYC achieved an 8.3% decrease in new HIV diagnoses from 2014 to 2015, including a 10.5% decrease in new diagnoses among gay and bisexual men and an 8% decrease in new diagnoses among cis-gender women. The number of new HIV diagnoses among young people ages 20 to 29 was the lowest since 2001. For the first time since the beginning of the State’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, there were zero cases of HIV transmission from mother to child in New York State for an 18-month period between 2014 and 2016, and in just one year, the number of people living with HIV in New York State who were estimated to be virally suppressed increased by 6,000, from 71,000 in 2013 to 77,000 in 2014.

In October of 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed a Task Force of 66 experts to create a detailed blueprint for how the State can end HIV/AIDS as an epidemic and get from 3,300 new HIV diagnoses per year in 2013 to below 750 new HIV infections per year by the end of 2020. That Task Force completed its work three months later, and at a ceremony in front of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Community Center in April 2015, the Governor publicly endorsed the Blueprint and committed to its full implementation.

While the State’s ETE initiative is on track to achieve its goals, advocates say these objectives are only attainable if the Governor and State Legislature carry out all the Blueprint recommendations in full. HIV service providers have called on the Governor and Legislature to expand access to lifesaving housing support and the 30% rent cap on tenant contributions to low-income people with HIV in Upstate NY and on Long Island, and take action to address the opioid epidemic to prevent overdose fatalities and HIV and hepatitis C transmission.

“It is deeply alarming that an estimated 3,700 individuals with HIV in Upstate NY and on Long Island are currently homeless or unstably housed, especially since we know that housing stability is an essential component of effective health care for people living with HIV,” said Perry Junjulas, Executive Director of the Albany Damien Center.

The ETE Blueprint includes specific recommendations on expanding access to stable housing for people with HIV across all regions of New York State. (i) Extensive State and national research evidence shows that housing, food, and transportation are core components of health care for people with HIV, with housing status as one of the strongest determinants of access to HIV care, retention in treatment, viral load suppression, and premature mortality. (ii; iii) One of the three pillars of the ETE plan is to engage and retain people with HIV in effective antiretroviral treatment to achieve viral load suppression, which both sustains optimal individual health and makes it impossible to transmit HIV to others.

“The ETE Blueprint recommends promoting and improving drug user health, and this means decriminalizing syringe possession, expanding access to harm reduction services and syringe exchange programs across NYS, and finding more effective ways to address the crisis of opioid overdose fatalities, such as allowing licensed syringe exchange programs to establish Supervised Consumption Facilities,” explained Jeremy Saunders, Co-director of VOCAL New York. On June 13, 2017, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released an Epi Data Brief showing a record number of unintentional drug overdose deaths in NYC—the sixth consecutive year that overdose deaths have increased.

After a year in which AIDS advocates saw little movement on ETE legislative priorities in the State Legislature, community leaders say that the Senate and Assembly also must do their parts. “We cannot achieve our 2020 goals without the Legislature’s help. This includes a statewide 30% cap on tenant contributions to rent, fully decriminalization of syringe possession, passing GENDA through both legislative chambers, and state-wide, age-appropriate comprehensive sexual health education that is inclusive of diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Guillermo Chacón, President of the Latino Commission on AIDS. “Today we march to save lives and keep our communities healthy and we ask for our Legislature to help achieve the goal of ending HIV as an epidemic in NY by 2020.”

NOTES:
i. New York State Department of Health. Ending the Epidemic Blueprint (2015), pages 24, 25, 29 and 30.

ii. Aidala, AA, et al (2016). Housing Status, Medical Care, and Health Outcomes Among People Living With HIV/AIDS: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Public Health, 106(1), e1–e23.

iii. Feller, D.J. & Agins, B.D. (2017). Understanding Determinants of Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Viral Load Suppression: A Data Mining Approach. Journal of the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care, 16(1): 23-29.

Posted on June 24, 2017 at 8:25 pm

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