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JUNE 29, 2012

Supreme Court Upholds Most ACA Provisions

After two years of legal review, the nation's highest court issued a ruling yesterday on several combined cases regarding the Constitutionality of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act legislation. The justices upheld or partially upheld the constitutionality of the law in all four arguments before the court. Perhaps the most important ruling in terms of keeping the law alive was a narrow 5-4 decision with Chief Justice John Roberts joining with the four more liberal justices to uphold the individual mandate on the grounds that although it is referred to as a penalty, it is in fact structured as a tax.

The justices in a 7-2 ruling partially upheld the Medicaid expansion provision, but also ruled that the states that fail to accept the expansion cannot be penalized by withdrawal of their current Medicaid benefits. This may be a problematic development in that states that have an ideological hostility towards Medicaid might choose to exercise their option not to expand. However, it does allow the benefits of the expansion, including federal matching payments that start at 100% in 2014 for three years then dropping to 90% by 2020 to remain in place. These matching funding levels, even at 90%, exceed what is currently available. The court also resolved the issue of whether or not it was too early for people to sue, by deciding that the penalty was not a tax for the purposes of the anti-injunction act and that therefore they could bring the lawsuits. Since they upheld the law, the issue of severability -- whether or not the court was obligated to strike down the entire law if they found parts of it unconstitutional -- was not reached.

In a political sense the court's ruling will likely have two strong effects. First it makes access to health care a campaign issue with sharp contrasts between Republican and Democratic candidates at most levels of the government. Republicans have sworn to repeal the Affordable Care Act, although they have also said that they would replace it with some type of access to care. There has not been a serious effort to describe what a Republican plan would look like, however. Second, it is very clear that some states may not accept the Medicaid expansion due to philosophical grounds. This is an extremely problematic issue since the people most affected would be low income individuals below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level who would not be eligible for Medicaid but would also not be eligible for subsidies for the health insurance exchanges. This is also a population that is overrepresented with people living with HIV about which AIDS United is especially concerned. Going forward, AIDS United has called on all states to move forward on the expansion and will focus strongly on ensuring that this happens.

Click here to read the Supreme Court ruling

Click here to read AIDS United's Statement by Victor Barnes, Interim President and CEO 

On The Stairway to Health Care History

AIDS United Pedro Zamora Fellow Tran Doan had a front-row seat to the history-making decision on the Affordable Care Act, and survived to write a blog post about it!  Click here to read about what it was like to be in the thick of it all, and how Tran's family has directly benefited from the ACA.

Observing NHTD

President's Statement -- Last Wednesday, President Obama released a statement to commemorate the National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) observed on June 27th. The Administration advocates that testing is a special priority and especially pertinent to advancing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy's goals of reducing infections, improving health outcomes and reducing health disparities.

Click here to read the statement on the White House website .

AIDS United Statement -- AIDS United Interim President and CEO Victor Barnes issued a statement encouraging testing, awareness and advocacy to end AIDS in America. 

Click here to read AIDS United's statement.

AIDS.gov Webinar --  AIDS.gov hosted a webinar/conference call on Tuesday June 26th titled "HIV Testing for an AIDS-Free Generation Webinar" for federal staff, grantees and stakeholders working with domestic HIV/AIDS programs.

Click here to view the webinar slides. A transcript and podcast will be available soon.

OraSure Technologies Opening of the NASDAQ Market -- Orasure Technologies, along with numerous partners, opened the NASDAQ market on Wednesday June 27th in honor of National HIV Testing Day. AIDS United Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Ronald Johnson and Trustees Marjorie Hill (Gay Men's Health Crisis), Glen Pietrondoni (Walgreen's) and Debra Fraser-Howze (OraSure Technologies) were among the attendees. Throughout the day in Times Square, New York City, OraSure worked with the Community Healthcare Network (CHN) and Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) to offer free OraQuick ADVANCE® rapid HIV testing from its mobile HIV testing vans.

AU Co-Sponsors Congressional Briefing on
Organ Donation

AIDS United joined HIV Medicine Association, amfAR, Human Rights Campaign, and Treatment Action Group in co-sponsoring a congressional briefing on increasing organ donation. The briefing focused on discussion of the importance of repealing the 1988 ban on transplanting organs from HIV positive donors to benefit HIV positive recipients. Under a 1988 amendment to the federal law reauthorizing the National Organ Transplant Act (PL 98-507), organ transplants from HIV-positive people were barred. One of the speakers estimated that as many as 500 HIV positive deceased individual’s viable organs are discarded annually. HIV is the only disease that is congressionally barred from transplantation. All other diseases are screened by United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) prior to transplantation.

Rep. Capps (D-CA) spoke at the briefing and told the audience that she, Sen. Boxer (D-CA) and Sen. Coburn (R-OK) are planning to introduce legislation to overturn the ban. Rep. Capps (formerly a school nurse) believes the advances in HIV treatment and care as well as advances in organ donation transplants makes this an excellent time to repeal this outdated law.

The panelists explained that with the advances in HIV treatment and care many HIV positive individuals die from diseases unrelated to their HIV and would truly benefit from being able to receive organs from an HIV positive organ donor. The majority of the organ transplants performed in the country are kidney and liver transplants, so there are numerous people on dialysis and waiting in hospitals for an organ to become available. Repeal of this law would give HIV positive individuals another alternative.

These donations would only go from HIV positive deceased organ donors to HIV positive individuals. It is not felt at this time that a living HIV positive individual should donate their organs to another individual since they may need their second kidney after kidney failure themselves later down the road.

Transplants have already occurred to HIV positive individuals from HIV negative individuals and in many cases the HIV positive individual has lived a long fruitful life after the transplant. Thomas Lane an HIV positive man spoke to the quality of life he now has after he received two separate kidney transplants.

Additional background materials are listed below.

American Journal of Transplantation Publication

The New England Journal of Medicine Publication

American Medical Association Press Release

The New York Times Article

House Approves Restoring of HOWPA Funds

On Tuesday, June 26th, the House voted to approve Representative Jerrold Nadler's (D-NY) budget-neutral amendment restoring $2 million to the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS Program (HOPWA). HOPWA's Fiscal Year 2012 enacted level is restored to $332 million in the House for FY 2013. The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill, in which this amendment appears, next will have to be debated on the Senate's floor.

Click here for the proceedings on the House floor .

Below is the press release from representative's office on the passage of the amendment:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Tonight, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) successfully offered an amendment to increase funding for HIV/AIDS housing within H.R. 5972, the FY2013 Transportation-HUD Appropriations Act. The amendment restores $2 million to the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program (HOPWA) to maintain current funding levels. Each million dollars spent through the program provides stable housing for 171 households.

"By restoring just $2 million to the HOPWA program, we can help provide stable, affordable housing for approximately 340 households grappling with HIV/AIDS," said Nadler. "My amendment will maintain funding for this vital program, and we will guarantee secure housing for another year for those living with HIV/AIDS. Nothing can be more important than keeping people in their homes and helping those struggling with disease to have a fighting chance."

HOPWA is a national safety net for people battling HIV/AIDS, providing housing support through competitive and formula grants to all 50 states. At any given time, one-third to one-half of all Americans with HIV/AIDS are either homeless or in imminent danger of losing their homes. Research shows that stable housing leads to better health outcomes for those living with HIV/AIDS.

Click here to read the press release on the Representative's website .



Advocacy Toolkit: "HIV Legislative Week in Washington D.C.: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Influencing Policy on Capitol Hill" Launches on Monday, July 2 at 2:00 pm Eastern Time

Thousands of HIV/AIDS advocates from across the country will assemble in Washington, D.C. for the 2012 International AIDS Conference (IAC), marches and mobilizations and to view the AIDS Quilt in late July and early August. This is a tremendous opportunity for the HIV/AIDS community to tell their legislators about the needs of people living with HIV in the United States.

AIDS United, along with our partners National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA), Treatment Access Expansion Project (TAEP), AIDSWatch, and the POZ Army, are seeking at least 500 HIV advocates from the United States to visit their Members of Congress while they are here in July and tell them how to reach an AIDS-free generation. Together we will launch an "HIV Legislative Week in Washington D.C.: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Influencing Policy on Capitol Hill" advocacy toolkit on Monday July 2nd at 2:00 pm. This advocacy toolkit is specifically designed for HIV/AIDS advocates and packed with how-to guides, helpful tips and editable resources on how conduct successful legislative visits.

In addition AIDS United, AIDSWatch, NAPWA, POZ Army and TAEP will be offering advocacy and communication opportunities throughout the conference and at the display of the AIDS Quilt! More information to come!

We are looking for your organization's support. If you would like to join us as a supporting organization, please send both your organization's logo and website URL to zfellows1@aidsunited.org. Your information will be displayed on the website detailing the advocacy toolkit. To become a supporter we ask that your organization agree to send information about these legislative activities to your networks after the launch.

Beginning on Monday July 2nd at 2:00 pm Eastern,  look for information regarding the toolkit and please pledge to join hundreds  -- even thousands --  other HIV advocates in visiting your Members of Congress while you are in Washington, D.C. for the International AIDS Conference!

First of U.S. Positive Women's Network's 3-Part "Getting Women Ready for AIDS 2012" Webinar Series­ - Save the Date!

Thousands of scientists, advocates, policymakers, researchers and activists will descend on Washington D.C. to attend the 2012 International AIDS Conference. In order to mobilize advocates for women to make the most of their experience during the conference, the U.S. Positive Women's Network (PWN) is hosting a three-part webinar series:

Getting Women Ready for AIDS 2012

Part I. The Science (July 2nd from 3-5 PM ET)
Part II. The Policy (date TBD)
Part III. The Roadmap (date TBD)

Join PWN for first webinar, "Getting Women Ready for AIDS 2012! Part I. The Science" hosted on July 2nd 3:00-5:00 p.m. EST! Speakers include Julie Davids of the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance, Dawn Averitt of The Well Project, and Anna Forbes, a consultant.

Click here to register !

New HHS Funding Initiative Focuses Largely on Southern States
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a 3-year, $44 million Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) on June 8, 2012, focused largely on Deep South states with the goal of reducing HIV-related deaths and associated health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities. Eighteen state health departments are eligible to apply for funding, including 12 in the South. Twenty-five percent of funds received by state health departments must go to community based organizations.

Application Deadline Date: July 31, 2012, 11:59pm ET

To Access the Announcement & Application Package:

  1. Go to: www.grants.gov
  2. Select: "For Applicants"
  3. Select: "Find Grant Opportunities"
  4. Select: "Basic Search"
  5. Type in the Funding Opportunity Number, formatted as: CDC-RFA-PS12-1210.

2012 HIV/AIDS Law & Practice Conference
The American Bar Association (ABA) AIDS Coordinating Committee will convene its sixth biannual HIV/AIDS Law and Practice Conference on July 20-21, 2012, at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, DC, immediately preceding the XIX International AIDS Conference in DC. Conference topics and participants will be multi-disciplinary and reflect both domestic and international issues in HIV/AIDS-related law, policy and practice.

Click here to register for the conference !

XIX International AIDS Conference - Still Time to Register!
The XIX International AIDS Conference, to be held July 22-27 in Washington DC, will host an expected 200 countries, 2,000 journalists, and 25,000 participants to address this year's theme of "Turning the Tide Together."

Find out more information about registration .

Find other important deadlines .

July 24th HIV Mobilization Planned at International AIDS Conference
Large scale actions have traditionally taken place at each International AIDS Conference to draw public and media attention to HIV prevention, treatment and research. As the time for the International AIDS Conference in Washington D.C. approaches, some local and national HIV groups are continuing this tradition by calling for a community mobilization around human rights and economic justice on July 24th.

More information about the mobilization can be found here.

AIDS United Hiring Regional Field Organizer
AIDS United seeks a Regional Field Organizer to work with its grantees, partners, and allies to implement a coordinated national organizing strategy. The Regional Field Organizer will help mobilize grassroots state and federal HIV/AIDS-related advocacy to achieve the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. The Regional Field Organizer will be located in Texas.

Learn more about the Regional Field Organizer position .

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