Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced legislation Sunday that would implement parts of his plan to eliminate HIV/AIDS as an epidemic by 2020, but advocates said it leaves out some of his task force’s recommendations.
The bill would allow minors to access HIV treatment without parental consent and allow care coordinators and care-management systems to share information about HIV-infected patients. It also would lift the upper age limit of a law requiring patients be offered an HIV test. Currently, the test is required to be offered only to those 64 and younger.
The bill also would allow registered nurses to screen for syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.
In a statement, Cuomo said, “The initiatives in this legislation are key to building on the progress we have already made.”
But advocates said the proposed law does not include some of the recommendations made by a task force he convened two years ago on the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“What they’re doing is good, is smart public health that was promoted and developed by a task force he convened,” said Jeremy Saunders, co-executive director of advocacy group VOCAL New York. He said, though, “there are two things left out.”
Specifically, Saunders said the task force recommended expansion of a syringe access program. More importantly, groups hoped for $50 million for housing rental assistance for HIV patients, including $17 million for those living outside New York City.
Two years ago, Cuomo issued a three-point plan to end the AIDS epidemic in New York. Key among tenets in that resolution was a call for an all-out effort to reduce the number of new HIV infections to under 750 a year.
Activists complained Cuomo last year promised $200 million in state funding, but his office later clarified it would be paid over five years. Activists want $70 million included in this year’s budget, especially for housing assistance.
James Plastiras, a spokesman for the state Department of Health, said in an email late Sunday he is “optimistic” an agreement with legislators related to housing assistance will be reached before the end of the legislative session.
A syringe exchange is being considered as part of other proposals, he said.