Today's the 28th annual World AIDS Day, and Mayor Bill de Blasio marked the occasion by announcing an additional $23 million per year for HIV prevention and health care programs, a sum that will allow an estimated 200,000 individuals to receive services each year. The initiative will also expand HASA (HIV/AIDS Services Administration) benefits beyond those with AIDS or symptomatic HIV, reaching an additional 7,300 people. The increased local funding comes on the heels of Governor Andrew Cuomo committing an additional $200 million to the cause statewide, and both efforts are part of the state's goal to reduce the number of new HIV infections to 750 by 2020.
"This epidemic has gone on for too long, and New York City’s been the center of it from the very beginning, but we are resolved to end this epidemic," de Blasio said in a statement today. "We have the tools. We’re committed to using them. There’s no hesitation. There’s no delay. There’s no wanting to minimize the challenge. But we still believe fundamentally in our ability to overcome this epidemic."
As of 2013, 117,618 New Yorkers are living with HIV/AIDS, and 2,718 new cases were diagnosed in 2014—quite a drop from the 5,684 diagnoses in 2001. Still, 80 percent of HIV/AIDS cases in New York State are clustered in New York City, and one in five people who are HIV positive are not aware of their status. The mayor's and governor's plans emphasize testing, anti-retroviral therapy, and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) such as Truvada for those at high risk of infection.
"GMHC has seen the overwhelming success of early detection and treatment of HIV,” said Gay Men's Health Crisis CEO Kelsey Louie at de Blasio's announcement. "Every year, we test over 3,000 people for HIV at our testing center and of those who test positive, 90 percent are virally suppressed."
Studies have shown that taking Truvada can reduce one's risk of infection by up to 90 percent. Indeed, just last week the City Council approved $6.6 million in funding for PrEP and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP, a one-month course of anti-retroviral therapy).
The most costly part of de Blasio's plan is the expansion of HASA benefits ("HASA For All") to those who have HIV but are not symptomatic; the plan cites studies that have shown that stable housing could reduce cases of AIDS by allowing those who are HIV positive to keep a stable treatment regimen. HASA For All will cost $99 million per year; according to Politico New York, the administration hopes to secure additional funding for this initiative by 2017. Cuomo's plan allocates some of the $200,000 to housing assistance for people living with HIV, but it is unclear how much of that will go toward the city's HASA For All initiative.
"The offer to expand enhanced housing assistance and other entitlements to all income-eligible residents living with HIV is something we have been seeking for some 26 years," said Housing Works CEO Charles King at Tuesday's event.