Governor Cuomo says the state is on track to end the AIDS epidemic by 2020. According to the New York State Department of Health, the number of new diagnoses each year continues to drop to record lows.
On Friday, the eve of World AIDS Day, the Governor announced plans to expand access to treatment for low-income patients.
For activists like Perry Junjulas, World AIDS Day is a moment to celebrate.
“How we can honor the dead is to double back and say we [are] going to end this epidemic,” Junjulas said.
Jujulas is the executive director at the Albany Damien Center — an organization providing services to members of the HIV/AIDS community.
Currently, to be eligible for assistance through the state’s HIV Uninsured Care Programs the patient’s household income has to be less than 435 percent of the federal poverty level, with liquid resources less than $25,000.
“I have actually seen people not take promotions or not take raises because they fear losing their assistance through the AIDS Drug Assistance Program,” Junjulas said.
New regulations will boost the eligible income to 500 percent of the federal poverty level, and does away with the cap on resources.
Adrian C. Hill, a Damien Center employee, says the changes will allow more patients to support themselves while accessing care they need.
Cuomo's 2020 plan to end the AIDS epidemic is one Junjulas helped develop, and would mean reducing the number of new infections annually to below 750.
“It is what we dreamed about back in the beginning of the epidemic,” Junjulas said.
This is an achievement that follows decades of activism.
Though the finish line is in sight, Junjulas says the work is never over. With the infections projected to reach below 750 annually, Junjulas says the end goal would be zero.