To coincide with the Heritage of Pride March, Governor Andrew Cuomo is announcing a plan to drastically reduce HIV rates in the state. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.
Jason Walker is out and proud, and hearing the governor say, "We have set the year 2020 as a goal by which AIDS, HIV should no longer being an epidemic," made this Gay Pride day extra special.
"It definitely makes it more prideful for me," Walker said. "I got my diagnosis when I was 21 years old."
Walker also works for a nonprofit advocating for low-income New Yorkers affected by HIV, and he knows that his work, and even his life, depends on medication.
"Without the drugs, I would die," he said.
He can't afford those prescriptions without government subsidies. Now, the governor says the three main drug makers are stepping up.
"The state has worked out arrangements where the medication will be provided at a more cost-effective basis," Cuomo said.
It's part of his plan, announced during the annual celebration of gay rights, to reduce annual HIV diagnoses to 750 by the end of the decade, down from 3,000 expected this year.
People at an HIV testing booth welcomed the news.
"A lot of people have died. So many people are sick," said one person.
The state would more widely distribute home tests, and there'd be a bigger push to educate children about the disease.
"I think it's totally incredible, and I'm honestly surprised that it's not all over the states," said Dannielle Owens, who runs a nonprofit helping young people come to terms with their sexuality.
Cuomo hopes his plan does catch on. It aims to make sure people take their medication once they've been diagnosed, an effort that could evoke fears of overwhelming oversight in a community the government has historically oppressed.
It doesn't bother Walker, though.
"When you look at your health outcomes down the road, you recognize that you taking this pill today can not only keep you alive but can help also prevent the spreading of the virus is something that I take pride in," he said.
The Center for HIV Law and Policy is worried about how patient data will be shared, worried that patient privacy protections could be carved away "unnecessarily."