New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week a new pre-exposure prophylaxis assistance program that proponents say will help to end the AIDS epidemic in the state by 2020.
The PrEP Assistance Program will reimburse eligible providers for a number of services including testing, counseling, treatment, and supportive primary care services to link and retain into care high-risk individuals who choose to go on PrEP. The program helps fill in the gaps in care for uninsured and under insured patients. While PrEP medication is covered by private insurance, through Medicare, and through an assistance program provided by Truvada (the current component in PrEP) manufacturer, Gilead, many other monitoring and care services may not be covered.
“New York is leading the fight against AIDS and this program will ensure individuals with the greatest risk of exposure can receive the support they need to stay healthy,” Governor Cuomo said. “Expanding PrEP assistance is a critically important step toward eradicating the AIDS epidemic in this state.”
The state estimates 154,000 people have HIV in New York, and that about 22,000 of those people do not know they have it.
The assistance program is part of Cuomo’s overarching plan, the Blueprint to End AIDS, which he announced in April. The Blueprint is a series of legislation based on proven methods to reduce the number of HIV infections, such as testing and helping positive individuals to prevent spreading the disease. The goal is to reduce the number of AIDS cases to less than 700.
In the 2015-16 budget, Cuomo added $10 million to fighting HIV and AIDS in addition to the $90 million already in place. According to the The New York Times, Cuomo also hopes to tackle other issues like housing assistance for those with HIV and discrimination against transgender individuals, who are at a high risk for infection.
In addition, Cuomo aides told the The Times, there are a number of smaller ways his office could tackle HIV in New York such as barring prosecutors from using condoms as evidence of prostitution, and making possession of needles obtained from needle-exchange programs legal.
"Governor Cuomo's new PrEP Assistance Program is leading the nation in providing access to a critical, life-saving tool that can prevent HIV infection. The Governor's program recognizes that PrEP is a gateway drug to primary care,” said GMHC's Managing Director of Public Affairs and Policy Anthony Hayes.
Hayes said that PrEP is effective when it is used in conjunction with other services like adherence counselling and STI testing. “Through providing funding to support these services," he added, "the Governor's PrEP Assistance Program will be available to all who would benefit, not just those who are fortunate enough to have good health insurance."