The latest numbers of new HIV/AIDS infections in New York State show a dramatic reduction in one particular population. AIDS activists say it’s proof the Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s blueprint to end AIDS in New York by 2020 is off to a good start.
The number of newly diagnosed HIV cases from 2014 to 2015 fell substantially among men who have sex with men, according to Wil Murtaugh, head of ACR Health in Syracuse.
“The first year of the blueprint to end AIDS in New York state by 2020 -- 2014 – 2015 -- we’ve seen a 10 percent decrease. So we’ve gone from 1,975 infections in 2014, dropped 200 cases down to 1,775. So to me, this blueprint is working,” Martaugh said.
Martaugh says there are a couple reasons for this. The state pushed for more screening for the virus. That allows someone who tests positive to get on anti-HIV therapy that suppresses the disease. These individuals then stay healthy and don’t spread the virus. And for those who test negative, the state has provided access to PrEP, a prophylactic drug, which prevents healthy, sexually active individuals from getting the virus.
But Murtaugh says some issues remain. He notes most of the new cases arise in communities of color, so efforts must be redoubled there.
"It’s a challenge, but that population is severely hard. But it’s less resources, less access to information. So we take our mobile van to where they’re at, and try to get the message to they so they can be educated.”
Murtaugh says to appreciate the numbers, you have to go back to the beginning of the AIDS epidemic.
"Twenty-five years ago when I started in this agency, New York State had 14,600 HIV infections in one year. We’re now down to under 3,000, which is amazing.”
The state's goal is to get the number of new infections below 750 by 2020.