FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 11, 2018
Contact: Mika De Roo, 347-585-6051, firstname.lastname@example.org
Governor Appoints Members to Historic State Hepatitis C Elimination Task Force
New York, NY—Governor Andrew Cuomo has taken the next step on eliminating hepatitis C virus infection (HCV) statewide by announcing the members of a state Hepatitis C Elimination Task Force. Co-chaired by New York State Department of Health Deputy Commissioner for Public Health Brad Hutton and Hudson River Health Care’s Dr. Christine Kerr, the Task Force is comprised of nearly 30 individuals representing groups from across the diverse spectrum of HCV stakeholders in New York, including Housing Works CEO Charles King and leaders from the Latino Commission on AIDS, National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Treatment Action Group (TAG), Harm Reduction Coalition, Southern Tier AIDS Program, and NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH). A full list of Task Force members can be found in the press release from the Governor’s Office here.
Using the Governor’s successful 2014 End the Epidemic Task Force for HIV/AIDS as a foundational model, over the course of the next year, the Hepatitis C Elimination Task Force will meet and build on the work of the New York medical experts and community leaders who attended the nation’s first statewide hepatitis C elimination summit in February 2017. The Task Force’s primary mandate is to create a blueprint of next steps needed to end New York’s HCV epidemic, using as the basis for that work the 34 draft recommendations from the 2017 summit consensus document and the hepatitis C elimination strategy that the Governor outlined in July 2018. To achieve its mandate, the full Task Force will formally meet twice to advance the action items and be supplemented by five workgroups (Prevention; Testing and Linkage to Care; Care and Treatment; Surveillance, Data and Metrics; and Social Determinants). All meetings will be open to the public and are in the process of being scheduled now.
The Governor’s July 2018 hepatitis C elimination strategy announcement included an initial $5 million in allocated new funding for hepatitis C services; commitments to ramp up immediate access to treatment; integration of HCV treatment with overdose prevention strategies and treatment for substance use in harm reduction settings; and other regulatory and payer changes that will yield improved patient navigation, removal of insurance barriers;, expansion of hep treatment capacity and syringe exchange access, and Medicaid reimbursement for harm reduction services.
“I am grateful to the Governor and the Department of Health for their groundbreaking vision and for the opportunity to be one voice among many crucial perspectives guiding the Hepatitis C Elimination Task Force recommendations, said Housing Works CEO Charles King. “As with the commitment made to end AIDS as an epidemic in New York State back in 2014, this bold step embodies New York’s commitment to leading the way nationwide: New York is the first state to take up the challenge on hepatitis C elimination. Between the decreasing prices on the HCV cure and the proposed regulatory changes that will allow us to treat people where they are at, we now have the tools we need to achieve this ambitious but feasible goal. I look forward to working with the Task Force to ensure the implementation of a plan that will end hep C just as we are already doing with HIV.”
An alarming 14,745 new HCV infections were reported in New York in 2016—more than five times the number of new HIV diagnoses statewide for the same year. More than 280,000 New Yorkers have ever been infected with HCV, and 50% are unaware of their status. Despite the existence of an effective, easy-to-take cure for HCV infection for over seven years now, and a more recent push to lower the cost of treatment to expand access, roughly 1,000 New Yorkers die every year from hepatitis C-related causes.