New York wants to end the AIDS epidemic by 2020
By Paul Kawata
New York City has joined the ranks of other progressive and forward thinking jurisdictions like San Francisco with the release of an ambitious plan to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic there by 2020. Internationally, UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, recently called for global action to end AIDS by 2020 and to relegate the disease to the history books. amfAR’s CEO Kevin Frost has also committed the organization to raising $100 million for a cure by 2020. What is your organization doing to end the epidemic? 2020 is only six years away. Are we really at a place to end the epidemic so soon?
According to New York State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah, “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.” If New York can reach that target, the prevalence of AIDS infections will be so low that HIV will no longer be considered an epidemic.
It is important to note that even if we end the AIDS epidemic, over one million Americans will still be living with HIV. These folks will still need a comprehensive continuum of HIV care and supportive services.
We can never forget people living with the virus. Ending the epidemic is not the same as eradicating the disease. As long as there are people living with the virus, our jobs will not be over. As such, we must continue our commitment to finding a cure, both functional in the short term and in the long term, the complete eradication of the virus in the body.
The working paper to end the epidemic in New York was spearheaded by Treatment Action Group and Housing Works along with many other organizations and activists. The paper makes the following re-commendations:
1. Adopt 21st century surveillance strategies to know the epidemic
2. Reduce new HIV infections through increased commitment to evidence-based combination prevention for both HIV-negative and HIV-positive persons
3. Focus on filling the gaps in the HIV continuum of care – to maximize the number and proportion of people able to suppress HIV viral load as rapidly as possible following an HIV diagnosis
4. Assure the availability of essential services that support health, prevention, and retention in care for all New Yorkers, weather HIV-positive or HIV-negative
5. Commit political leaders and all New York communities to leadership and ownership of the New York Plan to END AIDS.
Where is your city and/or state? Do you have a plan? Ending the epidemic will not happen by accident. Now more then ever we need our government and business leaders to provide the resources necessary to make this dream a reality.
Without new money, it will be almost impossible to end the epidemic and find a cure for HIV/AIDS.
Once again, there are few meetings for our community to come together to discuss these critical issues. For yet another year, USCA will be the only national HIV/AIDS conference held in the U.S. in 2014. I hope that you will join us this October!