Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during a news conference.

Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during a news conference. Credit: Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul/Mike Groll

New York State pledged to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2024, four years later than originally expected, because frontline health-care providers spent much of the past two years responding to the COVID-19 crisis, according to a state report issued Tuesday.

The Ending the Epidemic Addendum Report, released on the eve of World AIDS Day on Wednesday, found that new HIV cases reached record lows in 2020 in New York, with 1,467 new estimated infections and 1,933 new diagnoses.

The state, the report said, was on track to eradicate the HIV/AIDS epidemic by the end of 2020 but much of its expected progress was delayed as health officials redirected resources due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Reversing COVID's impact, expanding health equity and addressing racial disparities in treatment will require a new timeline, pushing the state's goal back to 2024, the report said.

"Over the last four decades, New York State's unwavering efforts to educate people on HIV transmission and provide groundbreaking strategies for access to treatment have resulted in bending the curve for new infections and diagnoses," said Gov. Kathy Hochul.

New York's sixth annual "Ending the Epidemic Summit," held virtually because of the pandemic, began Tuesday and will continue through Thursday.

In 2014, state officials announced a three-point plan to end the AIDS epidemic, focused on identifying individuals with HIV who remain undiagnosed, maximizing viral suppression and expanding access to medicines taken to prevent people from getting the disease.

While new HIV diagnoses declined for a sixth consecutive year in 2020, progress was not equitable across all groups, with Black New Yorkers experiencing new cases at rates eight times higher than white individuals and Hispanics at four times the rate of whites, the report said.

But progress was seen on other fronts, with the state experiencing six straight years of no mother-to-child transmission and use of its syringe exchange program — a key element of its effort to eliminate the disease — surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

This year's World AIDS Day holds special significance, as June 5 marked 40 years since the first official reporting in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of the country's first five cases of what later became known as AIDS.

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