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Governor Cuomo Announces Taskforce to End Aids

October 14, 2014

On October 14, 2014, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the creation of a Task Force to End AIDS and implement his bold plan to stop new HIV infections in the Empire State by 2020. Members of the Task Force include longstanding AIDS activists, HIV services providers and persons living with HIV/AIDS – making it a true public-private partnership. Amida Care Board Members and executives celebrate this opportunity and stand ready to offer their support and expertise.

“Amida Care applauds Governor Cuomo for forming the Task Force to End AIDS. We are grateful to be the first State in the nation to set a deadline to end the spread of HIV. We celebrate his courageous leadership. As partners with the Governor, with boots on the ground throughout the city, Amida Care will continue to connect people living with HIV/AIDS with life-saving care so New Yorkers can get healthy, stay well and live meaningful, productive lives,” said Doug Wirth, President and CEO of Amida Care – a NYC Special Needs health Plan (or SNP) with over 6,000 members living with chronic conditions such as HIV/AIDS, serious mental illness and substance use disorders.

The formation of this Task Force makes New York a national model in the fight against AIDS. Over the last decade, New York State has achieved a 40% decrease in new HIV cases, which is unprecedented nationwide. Government, providers, health plans and consumers will be working together to tackle the next frontier to end AIDS.

Charles King, President and CEO of Housing Works declared “this is a momentous opportunity for New York to show the nation – and the rest of the world – what can be accomplished if we fully commit resources and political will to End the AIDS epidemic.”

HELP/PSI CEO and Amida Care Board Chair Paul Vitale observes “in communities across Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens, where new HIV transmissions are among the highest, HIV service providers and our clients give thanks for the Governor’s vision and his family’s investments in the health of New Yorkers over several generations.”

According to Steven Bussey, President and CEO of Harlem United, “we’re looking forward to fueling the End of AIDS campaign with new ideas to bring down infection rates in the African American community as well as prevent the spread of TB and HIV among people who are homeless, living on the streets and in shelters.”

Raul Russi, CEO of Acacia Network, notes “as the largest minority group in the U.S., Hispanics are disproportionately affected by HIV. We believe that culturally competent care centers must integrate primary care, mental health and addiction services so that the service delivery system addresses the whole person with ease of access and quality care.”

“We will expand HIV care and prevention efforts in underserved populations, including young men of color who have sex with men and the transgender community,” said Dr. Freddy Molano, Vice President of Infectious Diseases and LGBTQ Programs at Community Healthcare Network.

The fruition of the Governor’s End of AIDS plan and the formation of the Task Force represent a long journey of community and government efforts to stop the spread of AIDS as an epidemic. If all people living with HIV become undetectable by 2020, we will have significantly reduced the ability to pass the virus along from one person to another, and provide the key for people with HIV/AIDS to live longer, healthier lives. They can be well, go back to work, pursue education and ultimately live their lives!

“For some people, becoming undetectable will require more than just taking a pill. Vigorous adherence supports such as stable housing, secure food, help with navigating the healthcare system, counseling and peer support will also be necessary, so that they too can achieve health and be part of our success,” said Dr. Jerome Ernst, Amida Care’s Chief Medical Officer.

Benjamin Bashein, Acting Executive Director of ACRIA, a research partner of Amida Care’s said “we are thrilled with Governor Cuomo’s announcement of the ‘End of AIDS’ Task Force. This is a watershed moment when vision hits the frontlines of reality.”

Ending AIDS is a humane endeavor and a fiscally sensible one. For every new infection prevented, the State will save about $400,000 in life-time medical costs. Amida Care salutes our advocacy partners for encouraging the Task Force’s creation. We also applaud the State and pharmaceutical companies for effectively negotiating cost reductions on HIV medications, making treatment more readily available to people receiving care in the Medicaid program. This will certainly encourage the campaign’s success.

These Amida Care leaders agree: Let’s “Act Up – End AIDS (now)!”