ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – New York state will end its AIDS epidemic by 2020, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said April 29, vowing to add the virus to the list of largely vanquished killers such as polio and smallpox.
The details of the ambitious proposal are spelled out in a list of recommendations by a task force Cuomo appointed last year. The suggestions include greater focus on HIV testing, treatment and the use of pre-exposure drugs that can prevent new infections in high-risk groups.
The goal is to drop the number of new HIV infections to 750 per year by 2020, compared to the 3,200 cases identified in 2013 and down sharply from the 15,000 new cases reported in 1992.
“We will not stop until the AIDS epidemic is in the past,” Cuomo told a group gathered at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in New York City. “New York is audacious. We will not be told we can’t do it. We can do it. We can end the AIDS epidemic.”
The number of new HIV cases in New York has dropped nearly 40 percent in the last 10 years because of better, faster tests; access to condoms; public outreach campaigns and other initiatives. Meanwhile, those with the disease are living longer thanks to significantly more effective treatments.
Continued progress won’t be easy, however. Many of those with HIV go undiagnosed. Some patients struggle with housing. Access to care varies from urban areas to rural areas. Help for certain groups- homeless teens, non-English speakers, drug users- can be especially challenging.
“There is hard work ahead,” said taskforce co-chairman Charles King, a longtime AIDS activist who is co-founder and CEO of Housing Works, a New York City organization that fights AIDS and homelessness.
Cuomo said 153,000 New Yorkers died from AIDS-related causes in the last 35 years.