We observe World AIDS Day this year by remembering those we have lost, celebrating the strides we have made, and continuing the fight to break down the barriers that remain in ending the epidemic. New York State’s theme for World AIDS Day 2019 is “Maintaining the Momentum, Expanding the Vision,” which reflects the state’s mission of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2020. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York has become a national leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but there is much more that we must do.
New York State’s Successes and Challenges
In October, Governor Cuomo announced that 2018 had the largest decrease in new HIV diagnoses in New York since the Ending the Epidemic initiative was announced in 2014. Between 2017 and 2018, New York experienced an 11% drop in the number of new HIV infections statewide, but we need to maintain and accelerate the momentum to realize our goal by:
- Increasing access to PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis);
- Encouraging everyone to get tested and know their status; and
- For those who are HIV positive, making sure they receive treatment to become virally suppressed, which means their HIV is at undetectable level and cannot be transmitted. We now know that “Undetectable = Untransmittable” (U=U).
PrEP is a game-changing pill that is 99% effective in preventing HIV transmission when taken daily. While usage is on the rise, it isn’t reaching many who are at elevated risk for HIV, particularly in black and Latinx communities. In New York, the largest proportion of Medicaid recipients taking PrEP are white men, despite the fact that in 2017, nearly 80% of new HIV diagnoses were among people of color. Currently, only about 6,000 New York Medicaid recipients are using PrEP, but the state hopes to increase that number to 30,000 by the end of 2020.
Testing and Treatment
The worst HIV status is ‘unknown’. Of the approximately 1.1 people in the U.S. with HIV, about 1 in 7 don’t know they have it. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care and those at higher risk get tested at least once a year. With treatment, people living with HIV can live long and healthy lives.
Another way to help stop the transmission of HIV is by decreasing stigma. Many people don’t get tested or seek treatment because they fear judgment and discrimination.
Everyone should feel comfortable talking with their health care provider about their sexual health and have ready access to HIV testing. For communities that are disproportionately impacted by HIV, particularly the LGBTQ community and communities of color, we need to do more to ensure that all health care practitioners — from primary care to hospital staff — are trained to offer culturally competent care. We have the tools we need to end the epidemic! Let’s continue the fight and help the communities that need it most.
For more information about HIV and AIDS, including testing, transmission, stigma, PrEP and PEP, visit the CDC website.
Click here for information about HIV testing in New York City, including locations.
Amida Care can also help. Amida Care is a Medicaid Special Needs Health Plan (SNP) that currently serves 7,500+ members throughout the five boroughs of New York City, including people living with or at elevated risk for HIV. Please contact us at 1-855-GO-AMIDA to be directed to more health resources.