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Treatment Action Group Welcomes Establishment of the Ending the Epidemic Task Force to Develop Governor Cuomo’s Plan to End AIDS as an Epidemic in New York State by 2020

New York, New York – October 14, 2014. Treatment Action Group (TAG) welcomes today’s announcement by the New York State Department of Health (DOH) of the Ending the Epidemic Task Force to more fully develop Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to end AIDS as an epidemic in New York State by the year 2020. “On June 29 of this year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo became the first leader of any state or country to commit his government to launching a plan to end AIDS as an epidemic by 2020,” said Executive Director Mark Harrington, who was named to the task force. “Now the governor is fulfilling his commitment to more fully develop this plan by creating a multidisciplinary task force to establish targets, timelines, and metrics to lay out a roadmap for the state to expand HIV prevention, care, treatment, and supportive services among all affected communities so that we can bring new HIV infections below epidemic levels, prevent tens of thousands of new HIV infections, assure successful treatment for all New Yorkers living with HIV, and provide them with the supportive services they need to live long and healthy lives.”

Tim Horn, TAG HIV Project Director said, “Building on the Affordable Care Act and on New York State’s ambitious Medicaid reform program, Governor Cuomo’s plan will enable all New Yorkers to benefit from recent scientific advances demonstrating the safety and efficacy of HIV preventive therapy—pre-exposure and post-exposure prophylaxis, PEP and PrEP, respectively—and on the finding that earlier effective treatment of HIV can reduce new infections by up to 96 percent. This will require a significant expansion and modernization of surveillance to employ 21st-century, fourth-generation HIV testing in all health facilities, as well as broad and deep community education and mobilization efforts to ensure that all at-risk and HIV-positive individuals receive the services they need to live long and healthy lives. It also requires expanded efforts to assure that all those living with HIV are retained in high-quality health care and able to maintain fully suppressive anti-HIV treatment.”

Horn noted that substantial price rebates agreed between the state and three of the six major manufacturers of anti-HIV therapy are an essential part of what makes the plan affordable. “Three companies making up over 70 percent of the HIV market have signed agreements with the state to provide over 50 percent rebates or price concessions to allow the state Medicaid program to more than double the number of New Yorkers on effective HIV therapy, while the plan foresees redirecting these savings into broader prevention, care, and supportive services for people at risk for or living with HIV.” Horn said, “New York’s HIV community is calling on the other three companies—Janssen, Merck, and ViiV Healthcare—to quickly come to agreement with the state on HIV drug prices that are sustainable within the context of the plan.”

TAG Policy Director Kenyon Farrow said, “The HIV community hopes that the U.S. government and other states and nations will step up to the level of leadership New York State is demonstrating, and in particular that the next iteration of the U.S. National HIV/AIDS Strategy sets a national goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic, preventing the maximum number of new HIV infections, and assuring that all HIV-positive people, no matter where they live in the country, receive optimal treatment and care. We hope that activists around the country and in other parts of the world will mobilize to create partnerships with government and the community to end AIDS in their jurisdictions as well.”        

Jeremiah Johnson, the HIV Prevention Research and Policy Coordinator for TAG said, “Meeting the HIV prevention needs of all at-risk individuals, including gay and bisexual men and transgender women, will be critical to the success of the governor’s initiative. TAG salutes Governor Cuomo for being the first leader anywhere to endorse the use of 21st-century HIV prevention technologies such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). We urge the governor to adopt a PrEP drug assistance program (DAP) to provide reimbursement and co-payment coverage for New Yorkers ineligible for insurance or unable to afford PrEP on their own, as Washington State is now doing. We also urge the governor's task force to develop a comprehensive plan to prepare healthcare providers to prescribe PrEP and PEP to those who need it in a compassionate and non-stigmatizing manner.”

Barbara Hughes, TAG board president, noted, “People with AIDS and HIV and their communities have long sought strong government leadership to implement all effective interventions we have today to prevent new HIV infections, preserve the health of those living with HIV, and set the AIDS epidemic on a road to elimination. With today’s action, Governor Cuomo becomes the first elected leader anywhere to commit himself and his administration to these goals. We salute him on his bold leadership and will work tirelessly to achieve this end.”

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