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State HIV task force says cuts to rebate program can hurt its efforts

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo committed to reducing HIV/AIDS cases in 2014, he created a task force called Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in New York State. The task force, also called ETE, had the ambitious goal of ending the epidemic in the state by 2020.

Part of the way they planned to do that was by using funds from a federal rebate program called 340B, which went toward giving patients discounts on prescriptions or funding agencies that provide care to HIV patients.

Dr. Bill Valenti is a physician with Trillium Health. He says Trillium has been able to help people access care as a direct result of the 340B program. Now, members of the ETE say the state Legislature wants to make changes to that rebate program, but it's not clear why.

“So there’s a diversion of the 340B pharmacy rebates that instead of going to the programs to support patient care goes back to the health department,” said Valenti.

Valenti said organizations like his are in jeopardy of losing over $50 million. He said losing the funding would derail ETE’s efforts, which address barriers that affect a person’s access to health care.

“Just picking up a phone and calling the doctor’s office can be challenging to a lot of people who have unstable housing, who have child care issues or … mental health and substance issues,” said Valenti.

He said despite not having a HIV vaccine, the state’s efforts have advanced in medically treating people who are at risk for contracting the virus.

“There are two different drugs and there are also other drugs that are coming, including an injection that lasts a month or two. So what this has done is it has put prevention science on the map,” said Valenti.

Part of Cuomo's goal to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York state is to reduce new HIV infections from 3,000 to 750 a year and to reduce the rate of people with HIV that progresses to AIDS by 50% by the end of this year.

Results of the ETE’s progress are expected to be released this week.

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