City unveils New York AIDS Memorial for World AIDS Day

NEW YORK — A new memorial designed to honor the victims of the AIDS crisis will be unveiled Thursday morning across the street from the site of a former Greenwich Village hospital that treated AIDS victims.

The 18-foot high white, steel structure will serve as a lasting reminder of the more than 35 million people killed by AIDS around the world, even as New York City reached a historic low in new HIV diagnoses last year.

The memorial will be dedicated at Seventh Avenue between 12th and Greenwich streets at 11 a.m. Poet Kamilah Aisha Moon will read from Walt Whitman's 'Song of Myself,' which is also on the memorial.

There will also be a vigil later on Thursday. The 25th Out of Darkness World AIDS Day vigil will be held at 6 p.m. at the Trinity Lutheran Church of Manhattan at West 100th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.

New York City suffered from an AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. More than 100,000 people died from AIDS in the city.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced Thursday a series of groundbreaking new initiatives in the fight against AIDS – building on the state’s successful blueprint to end the epidemic by 2020.

"The new AIDS Memorial is a tremendous tribute that serves as a painful reminder of all the lives we have lost to this horrible disease and as inspiration to keep fighting to end the AIDS epidemic once and for all," Governor Cuomo said. "The Ending the Epidemic Initiative has achieved historic gains, and with these aggressive new actions and new, far-reaching goals, we will continue to do everything in our power to end the AIDS epidemic in New York and forge a path for the rest of the world to follow."

New York City AIDS Memorial

The Governor made the announcement in conjunction with the formal dedication ceremony of the New York City AIDS Memorial on World AIDS Day.

The state secured $500,000 for the memorial, which sits at the gateway to a new park adjacent to the former St. Vincent’s Hospital. The site officially housed New York City’s largest AIDS ward, and is often considered to have been the epicenter of the crisis. The memorial is located less than a block from the LGBT Community Center, where ACT-UP was first organized.

New York City named the new park housing the Memorial the “New York City AIDS Memorial Park at St. Vincent’s Triangle,” making the Memorial and park the most significant public space in the city dedicated to HIV/AIDS. The memorial pays tribute to the more than 100,000 men, women and children who have lost their lives to the disease, and the heroic efforts of generations of healthcare professionals, activists and researchers who helped change the trajectory of the epidemic.

Landmark Legislation

Earlier this week, Governor Cuomo signed into law landmark legislation that will increase access to testing and treatment for individuals living with HIV/AIDS. The legislation will:
• Eliminate barriers to HIV testing by streamlining the process and extending the requirement to offer HIV testing to persons beyond the current upper age limit of 64, continuing to normalize the offer and acceptance of HIV testing so individuals who remain undiagnosed are identified.
• Increase access to STD screening by allowing registered nurses to screen for syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.
• Increase access to post exposure prophylaxis by allowing pharmacists to dispense up to a seven day “starter kit.”
• Further research abilities by allowing disclosure of HIV/AIDS related medical information to approved researchers. It also eliminates barriers in HIV/AIDS research by expanding access to data which will allow researchers to learn more about how HIV/AIDS interacts with many medical conditions to improve patient outcomes and prevent new infections.

New Initiatives

The Governor announced a series of new initiatives that will build on the progress under the End the Epidemic blueprint. These proposals include setting a goal of zero AIDS mortality and zero HIV transmission through injection drug use by the end of 2020. Moving toward these goals will involve launching a “sentinel event response,” similar to the project that was used to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. These projects address specific gaps in knowledge deemed critical to helping the State end the epidemic and involve fostering collaborations between researchers and policy makers.

The new initiatives will also include a proposal requiring that all types of service providers, care coordinators and care management systems track the viral suppression rates of the HIV-positive persons they serve, as well as ensuring that teens have the right to obtain life-saving HIV treatment and preventive services and safeguard the confidentiality of such care. This would expand access to HIV preventive services for youth at high risk, specifically post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, and pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, which is a once daily pill that protects individuals from HIV infection – an important prevention tool that is not currently available to them without parental consent.

The Governor also announced that the state is requesting approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for an amendment to its Partnership Plan Waiver to authorize federal Medicaid matching funds to advance the initiative to end AIDS as an epidemic in New York State. The amendment could bring $45 million in federal funds to aid in New York's efforts to end the epidemic. The funds will help expand programs that provide access to testing, PrEP, and PEP services, linkage to care initiatives, and address the social determinants of health.

Ending the Epidemic

The Governor’s Ending the Epidemic initiative has already had a tremendous impact across the state. For the first time in state history, there were no cases of HIV transmission from mother to child for an 18-month period. In addition, New York State has had great success in expanding access to preventive treatment. Prescriptions for PrEP have increased fourfold among people enrolled in Medicaid, and at the recent 21st International AIDS Conference, it was reported that New York leads the nation in the percent of at-risk individuals within the population on PrEP. Further, linkage to care efforts have had a success rate of about 75 percent, and in just one year, the number of persons with HIV/AIDS in the state who achieved viral suppression increased by 6,000, from 71,000 in 2013 to 77,000 in 2014.

New York State has led the nation in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Accomplishments include:
• 30 percent Rent Cap for people living with HIV/AIDS benefitting an estimated 10,000 New Yorkers
• $1.1 million to seven community organizations to help low-income individuals living with HIV/AIDS move into the workforce, expanding the eligibility for Emergency Shelter Assistance
• Making all HIV-positive individuals in NYC eligible for housing, transportation and nutritional support
• Peer certification initiative to improve health outcomes for people with HIV and those at high risk
• Negotiating deals with pharmaceutical manufacturers to reduce the price of antiretroviral treatments
• Laws to limit the admission of condoms in criminal proceedings for misdemeanor prostitution offenses, address the legality of syringes obtained through syringe access programs, and eliminate the need for written consent for HIV testing within correctional facilities.
• Rapid Access to Treatment pilot program to ensure immediate access to treatment for uninsured and underinsured persons newly diagnosed and those returning to care and will expand the program across the state