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Gov. Cuomo Expands COVID Vaccine Access to HIV+ New Yorkers

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday February 11, 2021

Gov. Cuomo Expands COVID Vaccine Access to HIV+ New Yorkers
  (Source:Getty Images)

This week New York Governor Andrew Cuomo expanded eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to include people living with HIV, Gay City News reports.

Advocates pressured the state government to clarify which underlying conditions qualified under stipulations for the "immunocompromised," sending the governor a letter demanding that people living with HIV should be prioritized in the next round of vaccinations. The new guidelines include a broader categorization for immunocompromised people. Expanded access to the vaccine will begin on February 15.

Jacqui Kilmer, CEO of Harlem United — an organization that assists clients with health, housing, and other services — commended the expansion in a statement, "Governor Cuomo's decision to prioritize access to the COVID-19 vaccination for the most vulnerable among us, those living with co-morbidities such as HIV and other immunocompromising conditions, is exactly the approach we need in New York City."

Doug Wirth, president and CEO of non-profit Amida Care, points to new research on COVID-19 and the impact on people living with HIV. Wirth said the organization commends "Governor Cuomo and expressing deep appreciation to the [New York State Department of Health] AIDS Institute's leadership for their expedited research" in recognizing that people living with HIV should be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination.

Expressing praise for the expansion, Charles King, CEO of Housing Works, warns of the possible implications if the process does not become more equitable. Research shows, by contrast with HIV-negative people, those living with HIV are more likely to receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, be hospitalized and die in-hospital from coronavirus.

King said in a statement, "Expanding the eligibility requirements will mean nothing, however, if better attention is not given to making the vaccine readily accessible to those who face other barriers, including those who unstably housed, living with mental illness, or who lack the technology and time resources currently required to find and schedule an appointment."

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.