New York City says it has met a target in the fight against HIV/AIDS two years ahead of schedule
New York City officials say a major target has been reached in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The goal, expected to be met in 2020, was 90-90-90, meaning the city wanted at least 90 percent of people with HIV to know their status, to be on treatment and to have suppressed viral loads with treatment.
On Monday, officials announced those numbers had been surpassed in 2018 with 93 percent of people knowing their HIV status, 90 percent of people on treatment and 92 percent of people with suppressed viral loads.
It comes on the heels of news that the number of new HIV diagnoses in New York City dropped below 2,000 for the first time since records began in 2001.
In 2018, 93% of New York City residents knew their HIV status, 90% were on treatment and 92% were on treatment had suppressed viral loads, ahead of the city’s 2020 target of 90-90-90. Pictured: A man takes a free HIV test in New York City, June 2019
‘Years of hard work and determination has put New York front and center in the global fight against HIV/AIDS,’ Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.
‘With more New Yorkers receiving treatment than ever, the day of zero diagnoses is closer than ever – something many believed unthinkable not so long ago. We will not rest until we end the epidemic once and for all.’
Earlier this month, figures were released that revealed 1,917 New Yorkers were diagnosed with HIV last year, down from 2,157 the year before, and from 4,846 in 2001.
While rates have been steadily dropping for years, the new figures showed a promising drop in rates among women, which have not been falling as quickly.
Health Commissioner Dr Oxiris Barbot said the record is a testament to the city’s campaigns that have sought to educate New Yorkers about ways to have safer sex, rather than demonizing sex.
‘We take a data-driven, sex-positive approach to HIV prevention that is firmly grounded in equity – and we are proving that it works,’ Barbot said in a statement.
‘New York City can end the epidemic if we continue to fight against the stigma, bias and discrimination that continue to be significant drivers of HIV, particularly among Black and Latino men who have sex with men.’
Declines in new HIV diagnoses were seen among in all five boroughs, all races, men and women.
There was an age discrepancy: rates fell among those aged 49 and older, but not so much among younger age groups.
In 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state launched the Ending the Epidemic initiative, which receives about $20 million in funding annually,
The plan has a three step approach: identifying people with HIV who are undiagnosed; making sure people diagnosed with HIV keep up with their healthcare; and stopping HIV transmissions completely for people at high risk with PrEP.
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) users take a pill every day. The pill contains two medications, which help prevent HIV from establishing permanent infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Almost 32,000 New Yorkers filled at least one prescription for PrEP in 2018, a 32 percent increase from 2017.
Starting on January 1, New York will require health insurance plans to cover PrEP without co-pays.
In the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, New York City was one of the hardest hit cities in the US due to its large gay community and a population of intravenous drug users.
At the height of the epidemic, there were 12,719 AIDS diagnoses in one year in 1993, according to data from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Today, that number is close to 1,000.
In the US, more than 1.1 million people are infected with HIV. Nearly 40,000 new infections were diagnosed last year.
The CDC recommend everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested for HIV at least once.
Those who are at higher risk, including men who have sex with men or those who have a sexual partner who is HIV positive, should be tested as often as once a year or more.
Cuomo is not the only politician to vow to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Earlier this year, President Donald Trump announced his campaign to end HIV transmissions in the US by 2030 – about 10 years later than Cuomo’s goal of 2020.
WHY MODERN MEDS MEAN HIV IS NOT A DEATH SENTENCE
Prior to 1996, HIV was a death sentence.
Then, ART (anti-retroviral therapy) was made, suppressing the virus, and meaning a person can live as long a life as anyone else, despite having HIV.
Drugs were also invented to lower an HIV-negative person’s risk of contracting the virus by 99%.
In recent years, research has shown that ART can suppress HIV to such an extent that it makes the virus untransmittable to sexual partners.
That has spurred a movement to downgrade the crime of infecting a person with HIV: it leaves the victim on life-long, costly medication, but it does not mean certain death.
Here is more about the new life-saving and preventative drugs:
1. Drugs for HIV-positive people
It suppresses their viral load so the virus is untransmittable
In 1996, anti-retroviral therapy (ART) was discovered.
The drug, a triple combination, turned HIV from a fatal diagnosis to a manageable chronic condition.
It suppresses the virus, preventing it from developing into AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), which makes the body unable to withstand infections.
After six months of religiously taking the daily pill, it suppresses the virus to such an extent that it’s undetectable.
And once a person’s viral load is undetectable, they cannot transmit HIV to anyone else, according to scores of studies including a decade-long study by the National Institutes of Health.
Public health bodies around the world now acknowledge that U=U (undetectable equals untransmittable).
2. Drugs for HIV-negative people
It is 99% effective at preventing HIV
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) became available in 2012.
This pill works like ‘the pill’ – it is taken daily and is 99 percent effective at preventing HIV infection (more effective than the contraceptive pill is at preventing pregnancy).
It consists of two medicines (tenofovir dosproxil fumarate and emtricitabine). Those medicines can mount an immediate attack on any trace of HIV that enters the person’s bloodstream, before it is able to spread throughout the body.