Governor Names Five from CUMC to AIDS Task Force

November 21, 2014

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has created a task force that will work to end the AIDS epidemic in the state. He has charged the task force with implementing a three-point plan to decrease new HIV infections to 750 per year by 2020. The task force began meeting in October.

The Columbians named to the task force are Alex Carballo-Dieguez, PhD, research scientist in the

HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and professor of medical psychology (in psychiatry) at CUMC; Stephen Ferrara, DNP, executive director of the Nurse Practitioner Association of New York State, assistant professor of nursing at CUMC and associate dean of clinical affairs at Columbia Nursing; Robert Fullilove, EdD, professor of sociomedical sciences and associate dean for minority affairs at the Mailman School of Public Health; Kalvin Leveille, community outreach coordinator for the Department of Sociomedical Sciences at Mailman; and Robert H. Remien, PhD, director of the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies.

The task force and two advisory groups will perform public outreach and awareness campaigns in line with the governor’s plan. “HIV/AIDS has plagued families across this state for too long, and together we are going to put an end to this epidemic,” said Gov. Cuomo. “This disease can impact people from all walks of life, and the sooner society realizes that, the sooner we can end the stigma that keeps too many people from getting tested and treated.”

The end of the AIDS epidemic in New York will occur when the total number of new HIV infections falls below the number of HIV-related deaths. In June, the governor announced a three-point plan to decrease new HIV infections by 1) identifying people with HIV who remain undiagnosed and linking them to health care; 2) linking and retaining people diagnosed with HIV to health care and getting them on anti-HIV therapy to maximize HIV virus suppression so they remain healthy and prevent further transmission; and 3) providing access to pre-exposure prophylaxis for individuals at high risk to keep them HIV-negative.

“These efforts will maximize the availability of life-saving, transmission-interrupting treatment for HIV, saving lives and improving the health of New Yorkers,” said Acting State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, MD, JD. “They will move us from a history of having the worst HIV epidemic in the country to one where new infections will be rare and those living with the disease will have normal lifespans with few complications.”

While the rate of new HIV diagnoses in the United States has remained steady over the past decade, New York State has achieved a 40 percent reduction in new cases, with significant decreases across almost all categories of race, ethnicity, gender, age, and risk. The total number of New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS has continued to increase as people with HIV now live a normal lifespan and the number of HIV/AIDS deaths has decreased.

The task force is chaired by Charles King, CEO of Housing Works, and Guthrie Birkhead, MD, deputy commissioner in the New York State Department of Health’s Office of Public Health.