New York, NY – July 27, 2018 – In major step forward, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered on his earlier commitment to eliminate hepatitis C virus (HCV) with today’s announcement of his intention to appoint a statewide Hepatitis C Elimination Task Force. Building directly on the Governor’s 2014 End the Epidemic Task Force for HIV/AIDS, the Hepatitis C Elimination Task Force will refine and advance the disease elimination recommendations of providers, community advocates, patients, researchers and government officials who participated in the 2017 Hepatitis C Elimination Summit in Albany. The announcement also comes on the eve of World Hepatitis Day and puts New York State at the forefront of US efforts to reach WHO 2030 viral elimination targets.
“We now have diagnostic tests and two-month curative treatments which can cure HCV infection in the vast majority of those infected. New York State now has a chance to make history by becoming one of the first jurisdictions anywhere in the world to commit to implementing and executing a comprehensive, evidence based, science-driven HCV elimination campaign in alliance with communities, providers, and public health officials,” said TAG Executive Director Mark Harrington. The Governor’s office also agreed to advocates’ requests for immediate action steps to scale up treatment access and better integrate hepatitis C treatment with substance use disorder treatment and overdose prevention. Critical policy changes include:
- Extension of primary care licenses to harm reduction settings, allowing hepatitis C direct acting antiviral (DAA) treatment initiation and monitoring where people who inject drug already receive services;
- Medicaid reimbursement for telemedicine to better serve patients in rural areas;
- Removal of expiration dates from prior authorizations of HCV DAA treatments and elimination of clinically unnecessary viral load testing to prevent treatment interruptions;
- Changes to licensure and reimbursement regulations to allow New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and Office of Mental Health-licensed treatment providers to offer on-site hepatitis C testing and treatment;
- Creation of second tier syringe exchange service providers beyond existing harm reduction sites to include community-based organizations that also serve people who inject drugs, including LGBT centers, churches and local agencies.
“The creation of a statewide Elimination Task Force is a breakthrough in New York State’s response to the hepatitis C epidemic and yet another great success for community-led public health advocacy,” said Annette Gaudino, HIV/HCV Project Co-Director. “We applaud the Governor’s continued bold leadership and look forward to collaborating with State Department of Health officials and other partners on the path towards hepatitis C elimination.”
Thirty-four draft recommendations, first presented at the Albany Summit, were based on contributions from over 90 stakeholders organized into 5 working groups: prevention; testing and linkage to care; care and treatment access; surveillance, data and metrics; and, social determinants.
In New York State, approximately 280,000 people have been infected with hepatitis C, half of whom are unaware of their status. There were nearly 15,000 new hepatitis C cases in 2016, roughly five times more new hepatitis C cases than the number of new HIV diagnoses reported in the same year. Even with easy-to-take and extremely effective curative treatments on the market for the past seven years, approximately 1,000 New Yorkers still die annually from hepatitis C related causes.