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TAG Calls on Governor to Expeditiously Appoint a High-Level Task Force to Develop Blueprint to End AIDS Deaths and Halt New HIV Infections

Mark Harrington, Executive Director
Tim Horn, HIV Project Director

New York, New York– Treatment Action Group (TAG) applauds Governor Andrew M. Cuomo for his full support of a historic community-developed plan to end the AIDS epidemic in New York State by 2020, as announced this morning by the Governor’s office and reported in today’s edition of the New York Times (“Cuomo Plan Seeks to End New York’s AIDS Epidemic,” Anemona Hartocollis, page A18). With this bold initiative, New York State—long the epicenter of the nation’s HIV epidemic—becomes the first jurisdiction anywhere in the world to publicly declare a goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic with the launch of a comprehensive effort to end AIDS deaths and halt new infections by employing state-of-the-art testing, preventive technologies, treatment, and supportive services.

“The goal is ambitious, but grounded in reality,” said Mark Harrington, executive director of TAG. “New York State has always been a leader and center of innovation in the fight against HIV/AIDS. We have seen an almost 40 percent decrease in new HIV diagnoses in the last decade, with fewer new infections each year, while nationally there has been no decline in the annual number of new HIV infections. With continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the state’s successful Medicaid reform, we’ve gained the momentum necessary to put more people living with, and at risk for, HIV into primary care, and to give them the support services necessary to achieve success.”

Critical to the New York State Plan to End AIDS is the appointment of a high-level task force to more fully design the comprehensive, fully funded, and scientifically grounded Plan to End AIDS in New York State. TAG and its community partners have been told by the Governor’s office that this designation is forthcoming. “We call on Governor Cuomo to expedite the appointment and we look forward to working with the task force to move immediately into implementing the ambitious prevention and treatment scale-up and community mobilization required to realize the promise of the Plan,” said Harrington.

This critical step toward implementing the Plan would not have been possible without commitments from the pharmaceutical industry. Over the past six months, TAG and its community partners successfully advocated for additional Medicaid rebates on antiretroviral therapies that make up 73 percent of the HIV market in New York. “We commend Gilead Sciences for completing successful negotiations with the state and both Bristol-Myers Squibb and AbbVie for verbally committing to the supplemental Medicaid rebates,” said Tim Horn, TAG’s HIV project director. “However, we also urge ViiV Healthcare to rapidly come to an agreement with the New York State Medicaid director on terms for participating in the Plan, and holdouts such as Janssen and Merck to do so as well.”

The anticipated success of the Plan is rooted in major breakthroughs in scientific research, including the findings that early HIV treatment can reduce new transmissions of the virus by 96 percent and the use of a medication, taken daily as prevention, can reduce new infections by over 90 percent.

“We have the science, and now we have the partnerships and political commitment to end AIDS in New York State,” said Kenyon Farrow, TAG’s U.S. and global health policy director. “If we’ve learned anything over the past three decades of the epidemic, it’s that a shared commitment—by government, state, and city health agencies, activists, health care and support service providers, and people affected by HIV—is required to replicate the tremendous breakthroughs in research in our communities, which not only help ensure a life without HIV-related illnesses for those living with the virus, but also help protect those at greatest risk of infection with HIV, particularly people of color, men who have sex with men, and transgender women.”

Inroads to support the end of AIDS in New York State have already been achieved, notably a 30 percent rent cap to support affordable housing protections for people living with HIV/AIDS. This monumental agreement, forged by Governor Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, along with the May 2014 public health law update to simplify HIV testing consent and improve linkage to care and treatment, are critical components of the plan to end AIDS in New York State.

“Advancement of the Plan to End AIDS, developed by a coalition of 30 New York State organizations, is not only the right thing to do, it is also the most economical thing to do,” said Harrington. “Every averted HIV infection saves the state over $400,000 in lifetime medical costs. A state plan to dramatically improve prevention and care efforts will save the state more than $2 billion every year and potentially free up funds to address other health issues.”

“There is tremendous work to do,” added Harrington. “Though new infections are dropping in most demographics statewide, they are increasing among our hardest hit populations, notably young black and Latino men who have sex with men, and transgender women. The Plan to End AIDS, which will allow us to apply scientifically validated practices in the context of universal health coverage in New York, is the way forward. We thank Governor Cuomo, not only for his shared leadership and courage for the people of this state, but for the example he sets for other jurisdictions across the country and around the world.”

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About TAG: Treatment Action Group is an independent AIDS research and policy think tank fighting for better treatment, a vaccine, and a cure for AIDS. TAG works to ensure that all people with HIV 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. TAG catalyzes open collective action by all affected communities, scientists, and policy makers to end AIDS.

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