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GMHC Statement on Governor Cuomo

3.15.2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Cub Barrett | 212-367-1561 | cubb@gmhc.org

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s announcement of the nation’s first state-level Hepatitis C elimination strategy, which would increase access to medication, expand comprehensive programs, and enhance treatment, is an important step toward protecting the public health of the citizens of New York

NEW YORK (March 16, 2018)--The following is a statement from Kelsey Louie, CEO of Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC):

At a time when there is an absence of public health leadership in Washington and an assault on our healthcare system, Governor Cuomo has stepped up to the plate to demonstrate national public health leadership by establishing not only the first statewide strategy to eliminate new HIV infections – a plan to which he recommitted today by expanding rental assistance for people living with HIV throughout the entire State of New York – but also by calling for the first statewide strategy for the elimination of hepatitis C. This is especially important right now as New York experiences an exploding opioid epidemic and a resurgence of people injecting crystal meth, creating a perfect storm of new hepatitis C infections across the state.

To increase access to hepatitis C medications, the Governor is also proposing more funding for hepatitis C prevention, testing, and treatment programs. For ensuring expanded access to the wildly expensive hepatitis C cure medications, we urge the pharmaceutical manufacturers of these medications to partner with New York State to deeply discount their cost, so that no New Yorker dies of this curable fatal disease due to inflated drug prices. If the pharmaceutical companies fail to offer the discounted prices, we urge the Governor and the New York State Department of Health to consider a compulsory state license to make available affordable generic versions of these medications.

The opioid epidemic has helped fuel a rise in new hepatitis C cases across the state, as the sharing of injection equipment during injecting drug use is one of the most common risk factors for contracting hepatitis C. A comprehensive hepatitis C strategy must also address the opioid epidemic and include funding for safe consumption sites and clean needle distribution, as well as sufficient funding for expanded access to harm reduction programs and addiction treatment statewide.

We also applaud the decision of the Governor to include in his FY 2019-19 budget a statewide expansion of the successful housing assistance program for people living with HIV that first launched in New York City in 2016. The program would provide localities outside of New York City the option of capping the income contribution toward rental costs at 30% for all people living with HIV in their communities, in addition to other initiatives. However, we strongly encourage the Governor to mandate this initiative, since housing security is one of the most important factors in the achievement of successful health outcomes. We should not allow local jurisdictions to opt out of this essential life-saving benefit, which would potentially help 4,700 New Yorkers living with HIV outside of New York City.

 

 

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About Gay Men's Health Crisis: Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) is the world's first HIV/AIDS service organization. GMHC is on the front lines providing services to over 12,000 people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Programs include: testing, prevention, nutrition, legal, supportive housing, mental health and substance use services. GMHC also advocates for stronger public policies at the local, state and federal levels with the goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic. For more information, visit  www.gmhc.org.