Hochul signs package of HIV/AIDS bills, rolls out funding for Harlem LGBTQ Center

Governor Kathy Hochul signs legislation on June 28, 2024, in Greenwich Village.
Governor Kathy Hochul signs legislation on June 28, 2024, in Greenwich Village.
Susan Watts/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

Governor Kathy Hochul issued several legislative and funding announcements during the final days of Pride Month, including the approval of three bills related to HIV prevention and treatment as well as several funding packages.

Perhaps the most timely development came on June 28 — two days before the New York City Pride March — when the governor approved legislation changing the name of the “Christopher Street-Sheridan Square” 1 Train station to “Christopher Street-Stonewall National Monument Station.”

Other legislation approved by the governor included the HIV Testing Modernization Act, which stipulates that those who are being tested for HIV can be notified verbally, in writing, by prominent signage, or by electronic means; the No Prior Authorization for HIV Treatment and Prevention law, which bars insurers from using prior authorization for covered antiretroviral drugs to treat or prevent HIV/AIDS; and the No Co-pays for PrEP or PEP law, which bars commercial insurers from charging individuals with copays for PrEP or PEP prescriptions.

“Individually and collectively, these bills will help New York accelerate its progress to end HIV in our state,” Callen-Lorde CEO Patrick McGovern said in a written statement. “First, everyone deserves to know their HIV status, and a modernized HIV testing law in New York will make HIV testing a routine part of every New Yorker’s healthcare and regular screenings. Additionally, New York is expanding access to lifesaving treatment and prevention options with the bills that prohibit insurance plans from imposing prior authorizations for HIV treatment and PrEP and prohibit co-pays for PrEP and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). Game-changing advancements in HIV treatment and prevention are close on the horizon, and it is our responsibility to ensure that access is as open and equitable as possible.”

The governor also rolled out a series of investments for LGBTQ initiatives, including for the Harlem SGL/LGBTQ Center; a workforce development program geared towards the transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary population; sexual orientation and gender identity data collection; and more.

The governor’s funding for the Harlem SGL•LGBTQ Center amounts to $4.4 million for resources, programs, and services, including medical treatment, mental health and social support services, legal referrals, career training, and more.

“The Harlem SGL•LGBTQ Center project has been in the works since 2016 and we are happy and grateful that we will finally have a home,” Carmen Neely, the president and CEO of the Harlem center, said in a written statement thanking the governor and others for the support. “Harlem’s SGL LGBTQ+ community, family, friends, and allies will now be able to work together to provide the programs and services our Harlem and greater NYC residents need. This is the beginning of a new era and we are absolutely excited and ready to get to work!”

Hochul also said “up to $1 million” is being allocated for workforce development programs serving transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary individuals. The Department of Labor will seek organizations to create or expand programs serving trans individuals, including occupational skills training and job retention skills. Learn more about the application process here.

Furthermore, the governor’s Pride Month announcement also pointed to the states new policy allowing state employees to use a first name other than their legal first name when it comes to some state records and systems.

Meanwhile, on July 1, the Adams administration also announced health-focused investments in the LGBTQ community, specifically at NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, Judson, which is one of seven Pride Health Centers within NYC Health + Hospitals. The new funding, according to Health + Hospitals, will improve community and mental health programming and pay for training for Judson staff and renovations to create community spaces. The funding also widens access to confidential HIV prevention services, according to Health + Hospitals.