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Treatment Action Group Applauds Progress on Ending HIV in New York, Cautions Against Complacency

Much work ahead to close gaps in New York and expand progress to other jurisdictions

New York City, December 4, 2019 –Treatment Action Group (TAG) applauds progress in New York towards ending HIV as an epidemic, with record decreases in estimated statewide and citywide HIV incidence in 2018. TAG states that accelerating impact at the community level will be critical to reach the Ending the Epidemic 2020 targets.

Reported statewide HIV incidence in 2018 decreased to an all-time low of 2,019 cases. This amounts to a 40 percent decline since the start of New York’s Ending the Epidemic initiative, announced in 2014 in response to advocacy by TAG with Housing Works and allies, in partnership with New York State and its AIDS Institute and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. These encouraging declines in HIV incidence are not occurring in all populations and must be accelerated—especially among transgender persons, young men of color who have sex with men, and young black women— if New York is to achieve its goal.

“When we—with Housing Works and others—began calling for New York to End the Epidemic, we knew that we could dramatically decrease new HIV infections, if we could raise the political will to fully implement the remarkable prevention, diagnosis, and treatment options at hand,” reflected Mark Harrington, TAG’s executive director. “Seven years later, we are heartened to see progress, but concerned that it neither reaches all those communities with the greatest needs, nor – as yet – is on track to reach the State’s goal of fewer than 750 new HIV infections per year by the end of 2020. We’re proud of the efforts by communities and policymakers which have brought us this far, and we urge all to intensify efforts to eliminate new HIV transmission, progression to AIDS, and death from HIV-related causes, as quickly as possible, using all scientifically proven tools.”

“Progress in New York shows that a comprehensive approach—including rapid treatment, pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis starts, broad access to affordable Medicaid care, supportive housing, progressive and inclusive policies, political will, and sustained funding—puts the end of HIV within reach,” said TAG’s HIV Project Director Jeremiah Johnson. “We must expand efforts to ensure New York delivers on its promise and ends HIV in all New Yorkers. And we must ensure that ending the epidemic initiatives in other jurisdictions nationwide are similarly robust, based on solid data and metrics, and community-driven.”

“While New York’s steps toward ending HIV are laudable, unacceptable life-threatening gaps remain,” elaborated Annette Gaudino, State and Local Policy Director at TAG. “Both mortality and incidence rates for Black people in New York City are atrociously high. New HIV diagnoses are disproportionately high among trans people, including those who use drugs, indicating a failure to create accessible, safe spaces for trans people who need harm reduction services. The overall uptick in the proportion of new HIV cases related to injection drug use and the ongoing tragedy of the overdose crisis—particularly in communities of color, where preventable infections and deaths are not a recent phenomenon—make it even more important to ensure comprehensive harm reduction services are available, now, for all New Yorkers. Shame on Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio for delaying action on safer consumption sites.”

Newly released New York State data show that significant gaps remain between the estimated 2018 incidence (2,019) and the 2020 target (750 new infections); new diagnoses (2,481 in 2018 vs. 2020 target 1,515); viral suppression among newly diagnosed persons (55% vs. 2020 target 75%); and viral suppression among all people living with HIV (75% vs. 2020 target 85%). Worryingly, only half those who need pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) around the state are accessing it (31,964 vs. 65,000 in need), with the figures even lower among Medicaid recipients (8,085 of 30,000 in need), despite PrEP’s free availability to NYS Medicaid recipients. New infection rates remain more than twice as high among Black and Latino MSM than among whites, and in many upstate areas viral suppression rates are lower than they are in New York City.

New York is making progress, and for this TAG salutes all the partners who are making this possible. At the same time, TAG calls for sustained political will and funding to end HIV and its co-morbidities, secured housing including HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) for all, supportive policies for other unmet needs, comprehensive harm reduction services including safer consumption sites, and accessible and stigma-free prevention and care approaches designed in partnership with the at-risk communities they aim to serve – not just in New York, but around the country and around the world.

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About TAG: Treatment Action Group (TAG) is an independent, activist and community-based research and policy think tank fighting for better treatment, prevention, a vaccine, and a cure for HIV, tuberculosis, and hepatitis C virus. TAG works to ensure that all people with HIV, TB, and HCV receive lifesaving treatment, care, and information. We are science-based treatment activists working to expand and accelerate vital research and effective community engagement with research and policy institutions.

 

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