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Press Release: TAG Applauds Governor Cuomo’s Commitment to Eliminate Hepatitis C, Expansion of Enhanced Rental Assistance for People Living with HIV in New York State

For Immediate Release
Contact:

Annette Gaudino, 718-208-7531, annette.gaudino@treatmentactiongroup.org

ALBANY, NY, MARCH 16 – Responding to unprecedented advocacy by community leaders, people living with hepatitis C, and communities impacted by the epidemic, Governor Cuomo today announced New York State’s commitment to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health threat. The Governor’s announcement makes New York State the first jurisdiction to declare the intention to eliminate hepatitis C, the deadliest infectious disease in the U.S. Advocates, who had long demanded that New York build on its historic End the Epidemic initiative against HIV/AIDS, applauded this breakthrough in the fight against hepatitis C.

TAG also heralds the Governor’s statewide expansion of the HIV/AIDS Service Administration’s rental assistance program for New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS, which further build upon the historic advancements in ending the AIDS epidemic by 2020.

“History is once again being made in New York and we commend Governor Cuomo for heeding the call of activists demanding that the remarkable advances in curative therapy start translating into lives saved and no new infections in the Empire State,” said Mark Harrington, Executive Director of TAG. “What we require now is state agency coordination and political follow-through, not only to move us toward HCV elimination in New York State, but to show other jurisdictions what can—and should—be possible.” 

Statewide efforts to assess the feasibility, establish targets, and build political will to eliminate hepatitis C gathered strength with the convening of a statewide Hepatitis C Elimination Summit, held in February 2017 in Albany, the first gathering of its kind in the nation. One hundred forty-seven hospitals, community health centers, and local departments of health endorsed the NYS Hepatitis C Elimination Consensus Statement launched at the Summit, calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo, the state legislature, and industry partners to make a joint commitment to hepatitis C elimination, with a formal Task Force to establish a statewide elimination plan.

“New York is once again leading the nation, thanks to the tireless work of dedicated activists throughout the state,” said HCV Project Co-Director Annette Gaudino. “We will continue to work in close partnership with community based allies to ensure the State acts on today’s promise to end the hepatitis C epidemic and we see measurable progress towards elimination of this deadly virus.”

While the details on the resources to be dedicated to the hepatitis C elimination effort have not been released, advocates have called for $10.8 million in this fiscal year’s budget to fund a comprehensive, statewide response to the epidemic that includes prevention, linkage to care and treatment, incarcerated people and surveillance. The passage of companion legislation is also essential to elimination, notably to expand and support programs for people who use and inject drugs, who bear the highest burden of hepatitis C. These legislative proposals include decriminalization of syringe possession and expansion of syringe services; the creation of safe spaces for drug consumption; the establishment of hepatitis C prevention programs in all state prisons; and medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders in state prisons and county jails.

Advocates had also called on the State to negotiate volume-based discounts on hepatitis C treatment with manufacturers to scale up the number of New Yorkers being cured of hepatitis C. Volume-based discounts for HIV treatment allowed the State to greatly expand access to HIV treatment and prevention medication and put New York at the forefront of the national effort to end HIV as an epidemic. A similar volume-based discount deal for hepatitis C cures is reportedly in process, and could more than double the number of people cured of hepatitis C per year at the same cost to the State.

Buttressing its steadfast commitment to ending the AIDS Epidemic in New York State, the Governor is now 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.

“These really are good for New York State,” said Tim Horn, TAG’s Deputy Executive Director of HIV and HCV Programs. “The expansion of access to affordable housing and a commitment to eliminate HCV isn’t just good politics—they are investments that will translate into lives and costs saved. Now it is all hands on deck to see both commitments through and to ensure New York State is a model of good, evidence-based public health for other jurisdictions heavily impacted by HIV and HCV.

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