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Cuomo vows to reduce number of AIDS cases in New York

World Bank Photo Collection

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced a plan he hopes will end the AIDS epidemic in New York state by the year 2020, but much of what’s involved in the three-point program is already being done.

The governor's program is called “Bending the Curve," and concentrates on three things: identifying people who test HIV positive; linking those people to healthcare and connecting them to anti-HIV therapy to prevent further transmission; and stopping high-risk behavior among others to keep them HIV negative.

Michael Crinnen, of ACR Health in Syracuse, says the state has already been pushing these strategies for a while, but admits it’s been under the radar. He says a push from the governor helps.

“When the governor speaks and says we’re targeting an end of AIDS in New York state, that’s like, 'really?'" Crinnen said. "Most people are thinking that’s not curable, is it? How can he end the AIDS epidemic? So it does cause people to scratch their head and start talking."

Crinnen says medication can keep HIV under control, and a diagnosis isn’t a death sentence anymore. But there are still some worries.

"If you get tested early in your infection, way before you feel sick, that’s the good news," Crinnen explained. "But to get you to stay on those meds, to be conscious of staying on those meds, that’s the challenge.”

Erin Bortel, prevention director at ACR Health in Syracuse, says she thinks it can be done.

“It’s definitely a challenge, but that’s part of the reason we’ve invested so much time and resources in getting the word out," Bortel said. "Whether it’s working with other organizations or doing street outreach so we can talk to community members about what their risks are and how to protect themselves.”

Several components of the initiative have already been approved, including allowing verbal consent to get a HIV test, instead of written consent, and allowing data sharing between the government and healthcare providers to find HIV positive people who aren’t getting care.

The goal in New York state is to reduce the diagnosis of new cases of AIDS in the state. This year there will be an estimated 3,000 new AIDS cases diagnosed. The goal is to get that number down to 750.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.