How New York Is Aiming To Revolutionize The Fight Against HIV

CREDIT: Shutterstock/Sam Aronov

Participants from the 2014 AIDS Walk New York.

New York has a new multi-million-dollar plan to fight the spread of HIV. Its goal is to “bend the curve” to the point where there are fewer new infections each year than there are HIV-related deaths.

The new plan capitalizes on the newest research and technology available about the virus and ways to prevent infections. More importantly, the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has dedicated $5 million to the effort through Medicaid and the state’s AIDS Institute, including negotiations with major pharmaceutical companies to make medications more affordable and accessible.

Here are a few of the key components of the plan:

  • Identify people with HIV who remain undiagnosed and linking them to health care.
  • Make consent requirements for HIV testing less cumbersome.
  • Pass a law allowing health officials to discuss patients’ treatments with their doctors.
  • Link people diagnosed with HIV to health care and medication to help them maintain a low viral load.
  • Promote and provide access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to help keep people negative.

These tactics are built on research that shows that it’s nearly impossible for people with a controlled undetectable viral load to infect others. Studies have also found that PrEP, the use of antiretroviral therapies by individuals who are not infected, is over 90 percent effective at protecting them from infection when exposed to the virus. Federal health officials recently released new guidelines recommending the widespread use of PrEP.

The Treatment Action Group (TAG), an HIV/AIDS activist organization, reports that the plan will be maintained by a “high-level task force” that has yet to be appointed. TAG executive director Mark Harrington praised the new plan for being “grounded in reality,” pointing out that it will simultaneously save the state money as it works to eradicate HIV.

A new survey published this month found that men in New York City who are engaging in some of the riskiest sexual activity are not concerned about HIV infection and do not believe their behavior warrants the use of PrEP. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that about 16 percent of all those infected with HIV are unaware of their status.