NEW YORK — New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office said last week that it has developed a plan to aggressively identify, track and treat people with HIV infection there with hopes of lowering infections there to non-epidemic levels by 2020, the New York Times reports.
The Cuomo administration described the effort as reflecting a once unimaginable sea change in thinking since the first cases of AIDS were reported among gay men, mostly in the city, by the Centers for Disease Control in July 1981. It has gone from a mysterious plague to a disease that experts can envision one day vanquishing.
“Thirty years ago, New York was the epicenter of the AIDS crisis,” Cuomo said in a statement on Saturday as quoted by the Times. “We are in a position to be the first state in the nation committed to ending this epidemic.”
The state’s acting health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, said on June 27 that he believed that by 2020, New York could reduce its annual incidence of new infections to about 750 from the current 3,000, bringing the number of new cases below the number of annual deaths, or as he put it, “bending the curve” in the direction of ending the epidemic in the state, the Times article said.
The prospect of ending the AIDS epidemic is gaining momentum in epidemiological circles. It is based on studies showing that AIDS drugs have a double-barreled effect not just as treatment but as a means of blocking transmission. On June 24, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, a leading AIDS researcher, argued at the Aspen Ideas Festival that “we can end the AIDS pandemic in the next 10 years,” the New York Times article said.
In New York, of an estimated 154,000 people infected with HIV, 22,000 do not know they have it, state officials said. Of the 132,000 who know they have it, 64,000 need treatment to suppress the virus.