On Saturday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo released this statement on the 40th anniversary of the first AIDS diagnosis in America:
"Forty years ago today, five young men became the first confirmed AIDS patients in the United States, beginning our decades-long battle to understand, destigmatize, and eradicate this disease.
"New York – the home of the LGBTQ rights movement, the home of Stonewall – was the first responder to the crisis, with giants like Larry Kramer and Peter Staley fearlessly and relentlessly and loudly leading the fight to understand and defeat the so-called 'gay cancer,' as they called it at the time. With the federal government standing paralyzed in denial, they and countless other New Yorkers demanded action and forced a response – including from my father, who in 1983 became the first governor in the nation to stand up and bring attention to the epidemic, starting a needle exchange program, ensuring confidentiality of health records, and initiating state medical research on AIDS.
"That legacy of leadership endures today, through our 'End the Epidemic' campaign. HIV incidence in New York state has declined every single year since we launched the campaign in 2014, with the number of new infections falling to all-time lows in 2019, the most recent year of available data.
"But while New York has always been, and will always be, a beacon for all those who believe in progress, hope, science, safety and equality for all, no government has the right to take a victory lap today. Over the last 40 years, hundreds of thousands of Americans, and tens of millions of people around the world, have been lost to AIDS-related illnesses – too often because people with the power to do something about it instead chose to dismiss a crisis that disproportionally impacted LGBTQ, underserved, and marginalized communities. Instead, this anniversary is a moment to reflect on the responsibility government has to lead, to serve and protect each and every one of its citizens, and the devastating consequences when it fails to do so.
"My thoughts today are with the untold number of New Yorkers who have been touched by this epidemic, and with all those who have worked so hard to end it, once and for all."