New York Sees an End Coming to the AIDS Epidemic

Participants in the New York AIDS walk in 2014.

Participants in the New York AIDS walk in 2014. Sam Aronov/Shutterstock


Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Anti-vaccine protestor throws human blood at California state lawmaker … Alabama allocates money to hospitals … Austin mayor asks governor for help with homelessness crisis.

In 2018, New York saw just 2,481 new cases of people contracting the virus that causes AIDS, a drop of 11% from the previous year and a drop of 28% from 2014. The state, which had the first known cases in the U.S. in 1981, is crediting the decrease to a comprehensive plan led by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which began in 2014. The plan includes efforts to track and treat people with HIV, and making PrEP drugs, which reduce the risk of contracting HIV through sex, more accessible. Cuomo said that thanks to the $20 million initiative, 32,000 New Yorkers are now using PrEP, an increase of 32% since 2017. “Five years ago we launched an aggressive, nation-leading campaign to end the AIDS epidemic in New York and to ensure every person living with HIV or AIDS gets the support they need to lead a full and healthy life. This new data shows we are on track to meet [our goal to end the AIDS epidemic by 2020] and continue our historic progress to finally bend the curve on an epidemic that has taken too many lives for too long,” Cuomo said. The state isn’t aiming for zero new HIV cases each year by 2020, but rather making less than 1,500 new cases annually the goal. Jen Kates, the director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said that the promotion of PrEP and rapid use of antiretroviral drugs, which suppress HIV in those who test positive, are responsible for the state’s success. “Those two things together have been a revolution,” she said. New York City in particular has seen a remarkable drop in AIDS rates. In 2000, AIDS-related illnesses were the third leading cause of premature death in the city; in 2017, it fell to tenth. Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said that the city is taking a sex-positive approach. “It’s been part of our effort at chipping away at the stigma. Not only are we seeing decreasing numbers of New Yorkers newly diagnosed with HIV., but they are living long and thriving lives,” she said. [New York Times; CNY Central; Los Angeles Times]

ANTI-VACCINE PROTESTOR | A protestor who opposed California’s new law that restricts medical exemptions for vaccines threw a menstrual cup full of red liquid at a state lawmaker a few weeks ago. The substance was tested and confirmed to be human blood, but was found negative for blood borne pathogens or infections. “That’s for the dead babies,” Rebecca Lee Dalelio shouted as she threw the blood. Among those hit was state Sen. Steve Glazer, a Democrat who had to undergo blood exposure tests. “A couple hours of sleep since our Senate adjournment around 3am and I’m at a doctors appointment to follow safety protocols from blood exposure. Still absorbing it all...Thankful that none of my Senate colleagues appear hurt and we finished our work,” he wrote on Twitter. State Sen. Richard Pan, the Democrat who wrote California’s new vaccine law, cautioned that such events could keep happening. “This incident was incited by the violent rhetoric perpetuated by leaders of the anti-vaxx movement. As their rhetoric escalates, their incidents of violence does as well. This is an attack on the democratic process and it must be met with strong condemnation by everyone,” he said. The Senate chambers have since been cleaned and sanitized. [Sacramento Bee; Los Angeles Times

MONEY FOR HOSPITALS | Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey released a conditional appropriation of $22 million for struggling hospitals in the state. The hospitals will receive a total of $78 million, including federal dollars, in increased reimbursements for treating Medicaid beneficiaries. “I want to do everything I can to help our hospitals provide the services needed to keep Alabamians healthy,’’ Ivey said. The money was released at the beginning of fiscal year 2020, which started on October 1. State Rep. Steve Clouse, a Republican who chairs the General Fund committee in the House, said that the move is proof of good communication between the governor’s office and the legislature. “This appropriation is another successful example of coordination between the executive and legislative branches to be fiscally responsible while simultaneously meeting the needs of Alabamians,” he said. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association said that the money will be helpful for two particular types of hospitals. “While these funds will help all hospitals in our state, they will especially provide needed support to the two children’s hospitals and the rural hospitals facing severe financial strains,” he said. [Atlanta Political Reporter; Yellow Hammer News

AUSTIN HOMELESSNESS | Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to Austin Mayor Steve Adler saying that the city must make improvements on homelessness or he will send in state agencies to address the problem. Adler said he took the letter not as a threat, but an offer of assistance. “Further inaction by you and the Austin City Council will leave me no choice...I will give you until November 1, 2019, to demonstrate consequential improvement in the Austin homelessness crisis and the danger it poses to the health and safety of the public. If meaningful reforms are not implemented by then, I will direct every applicable state agency to act to fulfill my responsibility to protect the health and safety of Texans in your jurisdiction,” the governor’s letter read. Adler said he disagreed with some of Abbott’s suggestions, including increased ticketing and arrests of homeless people, saying he preferred instead to help them get off the streets. "This is a community right now that is locked on the goal of ending homeless. It would be easier, it would happen more rapidly, if we had the state's support,” he said. City Councilmember Leslie Pool also said that state help would be appreciated. "I think we all would appreciate the State—and the feds—stepping up to the plate to provide necessary levels of funding to all Texas cities that are grappling with the challenges of homelessness. He is the governor, after all, and the welfare and health of all who live in this state are his responsibility,” Pool said. [KVUE; Dallas Morning News

MAKING A MURDERER | Brendan Dassey, the focus of the Netflix documentary series “Making a Murderer” who was convicted as a teenager and is now serving a life sentence, has asked Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers for a pardon. Dassey, now 29, confessed to the crimes of rape and murder without an attorney present when he was 16. His legal team has tried numerous times to get him released from prison, including an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear his case. “I am writing to ask for a pardon because I am innocent and want to go home,” Dassey said to the governor. It seems unlikely his request will be granted, as the rules of the state’s pardons board stipulate that applicants must have completed their prison sentences before being pardoned. While the Wisconsin governor also has commutation powers, they are rare in the state. Dassey’s attorneys hope that Evers will make an exception for their client. [Associated Press; CNN]

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.

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