NY could end AIDS epidemic by 2020



Samantha Unger

In a statement released by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s press office, New York is said to be on track to meet its goal to end its AIDS epidemic by 2020. The state saw its largest decrease in new HIV diagnoses last year, with a drop of 11 percent from 2017, and a 28 percent drop from 2014, with its “Ending the Epidemic” initiative.

“Five years ago, we launched an aggressive, nation-leading campaign to end the AIDS epidemic in New York and to ensure every person living with HIV or AIDS gets the support they need to lead a full and healthy life,” Cuomo said in the press release. “This new data shows we are on track to meet that goal and continue our historic progress to finally bend the curve on an epidemic that has taken too many lives for too long.”

The initiative centers around identifying, tracking and treating people with HIV, as well as bringing attention to the PrEP pill. This pill is taken as a preventative measure by HIV-negative people if they have a partner who is HIV-positive, have sex with people whose status is unknown or share injection drug equipment. Since the creation of “Ending the Epidemic,” the state has allocated an annual $20 million to support the work of the initiative and has spent an estimated $2.2 billion to increase access to HIV services and healthcare for transgender, gender non-conforming and non-binary individuals.


Last month, New York became the first state in the nation to declare Oct. 20–26 PrEP Awareness Week. Along with measures to highlight the medication’s effectiveness, the state’s health department is working on making PrEP affordable for all New Yorkers by requiring health insurance plans to cover the medication without co-pays starting Jan. 1, 2020. The department is also funding education and support services to highlight the preventative pill and treatments available. Truvada was the only FDA approved form of PrEP until Descovy was approved on Oct. 3. Descovy prevents HIV infections in men and transgender women who have sex with men.

Although the governor’s office is optimistic that the initiative will prove successful by next year, some of the statistics provided have led to a rise in skepticism. According to Gay City News, “…the state reported that there were 2,481 new HIV diagnoses in 2018. Under the plan, the target for 2020 is 1,515 new HIV diagnoses. That would be a 39 percent decline over two years. From 2014 through 2018, the state reported declines in new HIV diagnoses that ranged from a low of three percent to a high of nine percent. The average decline was four percent.” A 39 percent decline would be drastically higher than those previously recorded, leaving many unconvinced by the governor’s claims.

The total number of new infections may remain unknown until the end of 2020; until then, the initiative and several state-wide programs are working to call attention to the preventative measures, antiretroviral treatments and support services that are available in and around New York.