Shah outlines plan to end New York’s AIDS epidemic

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ALBANY—State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah outlined a plan to virtually eliminate AIDS in New York State by the year 2020, bringing the number of new infections statewide below 730, he said in an address to a group of HIV/AIDS activists at the state Capitol on Wednesday.

“Thirty years ago was when the epidemic started and New York had the distinction of being the epicenter,” Shah said. “We’ve reached a point today, 30 years later, where both, domestically in America and internationally, we can start to see the horizon to the AIDS epidemic and New York is going to be a leader in making that happen."

“In 1993, at the height of the epidemic, 15,000 New Yorkers were diagnosed with HIV. In 2012, that number had shrunk to 3,400. By 2020 we want to see that number shrink even smaller to fewer than 700,” he said.

If New York can reach that target, the prevalence of AIDS infections in New York will be so low that it will no longer be considered an epidemic, according to Shah.

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“For the first time we will see the number of New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS go down,” he said.

The state is working to make antiretroviral drugs universally available to Medicaid patients who need them, Shah said. The state has reached an agreement with at least one pharmaceutical company, Gilead Sciences, to purchase their anti-retroviral drugs in bulk at a lower cost.

Shah said the state is actively negotiating agreements with other pharmaceutical companies, but he declined to name them, citing the ongoing nature of the negotiations.

Shah said the state is pushing a number of initiatives to achieve that goal through Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget, including plans to cap New York City HIV/AIDS patients’ rent at 30 percent of their income, and initiatives to make AIDS testing more widely available.

Shah spoke in January at a World Bank conference on “Social Drivers to End AIDS and Extreme Poverty” telling a group of international advocates the state was “committed” to ending AIDS infections in New York by the end of this decade. The state health department began quietly meeting with HIV/AIDS advocates last year, asking them to come up with detailed plans for what the state could do to end new AIDS infections statewide.