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MARCH 1, 2013
AIDSWatch 2013 in Full Force

This past Monday and Tuesday, February 25-26, 2013, AIDSWatch participants from around the country joined the Treatment Access Expansion Project and AIDS United in Washington, D.C., for an invigorating two days of HIV/AIDS-related advocacy! You can see some pictures of the event on AIDS United’s Facebook page by clicking here. Below is the message from the organizers:

On behalf of the Treatment Access Expansion Project & AIDS United, thank you for your participation in AIDSWatch 2013!

Thanks to your efforts, we had over 130 participants at the training, an additional 40 on day two doing Hill visits, nearly 200 legislative meetings were conducted, more than 75 participants attended the Congressional briefing, it was a packed room for a moving farewell to the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) at the Capitol Visitor Center and there were HIV/AIDS activists excited from across the country! In addition, Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee, joined us at the Congressional briefing and spoke on the importance of continued funding for HIV-related programs and announced her reintroduction of the Stop AIDS in Prison Act (H.R. 895). You all did this during AIDSWatch – thank you!

We would like to thank Bristol Myers Squibb for their generous charitable support of AIDSWatch 2013.

If one person in your delegation has not yet filled out a Congressional visit evaluation form for each visit conducted, please use this link.

In addition, all presentations from both the training & Congressional briefing can be obtained here.

Finally, we hope you’ll block your calendars now for AIDSWatch 2014 – tentatively set for April 28-29, 2014, in Washington, D.C.

Sincerely,

Robert Greenwald & Michael Kaplan

The Importance of AIDSWatch: Reflections on 2013

The following statement froman  AIDSWatch 2013 participant highlights the continued importance of a federal advocacy event dedicated solely to HIV/AIDS. We hope that you will be inspired by her story and will join us next year for AIDSWatch 2014!

Lucy Baglin – Illinois Coordinator, AIDS Foundation of Chicago

“As a first year participant of AIDSWatch, I walk away from this event feeling more inspired than ever. The sense of camaraderie among the HIV/AIDS community was enlightening, and being a part of the resilient Illinois team was an honor.

"Alongside the legislative issues at hand, Illinois advocates chose to bring their personal stories to legislators, to put a real person behind the policy, and to pack an even greater congressional punch. When advocating to protect HIV services, an advocate and constituent from the small town of Decatur, Illinois, bravely told her U.S. Congressman how Ryan White Programs saved her life. That she would not be sitting in his office right now without them, and that protecting these funds was critical for her and hundreds of thousands of others living with HIV/AIDS. She asked for this congressman’s support, and I don’t doubt that her story will come to mind when these issues are brought to his table.

?AIDSWatch also honed my advocacy skills, and those of my Illinois teammates. We had practiced what we would say, and how we would make the ‘ask’, but when meeting legislators the conversation may not always go as planned. However, as a team, and as individuals, our advocacy and delivery got stronger with each meeting. We tailored our messages to be more effective, and knew how and when to back someone up on an issue. We left each meeting feeling increasingly confident, and by the end of the day we felt like HIV/AIDS rock stars.”

Click here to read more participant reflections.

Sequestration Takes Effect

Automatic federal spending cuts called for in the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 will go into effect at midnight tonight, March 2. For FY 2013, which started Oct. 1, 2012, the automatic cuts (sequestration) total $85.3 billion and will be implemented on an across-the-board basis on every project, program, and activity. Sequestration is taking effect as a result of Congress not taking action either to replace the automatic cuts with a plan to reduce the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion over 10 years (the so called “grand bargain”), repeal sequestration completely, or delay the effective date further. A proposal to delay the automatic cuts until Jan. 1, 2014 offered by Senate Democrats and a proposal to replace sequestration offered by Senate Republicans both failed on Thursday to get the 60 votes needed to proceed, though the Democratic version got a majority 51 votes. Sen. Reid voted against it so that procedurally he can revisit the bill.

Under the terms of the BCA, the automatic cuts are split 50/50 between defense spending and non-defense spending. For FY 2013, this translates to $42.7 billion in defense cuts and $42.7 billion in non-defense cuts, including discretionary and some mandatory cuts. Since BCA exempts several mandatory spending programs, including Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps), and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), the bulk of the cuts will be from discretionary spending, defense and non-defense. Spending for HIV/AIDS programs, domestic and global, are in the non-defense discretionary (NDD) category. NDD cuts will total $26.4 billion in FY 2013.

The impact of sequestration is widely projected to be severe, especially for health care programs and programs serving low-income people. In a letter to Senator Barbara Mikulski, Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius projected that cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would result in approximately 424,000 fewer HIV tests conducted by health department grantees. Cuts affecting ADAP would mean 7,400 fewer people having access to life-saving HIV medications. In testimony before the Senate Appropriation Committee Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said, “Sequestration cuts to the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program would result in 7,300 fewer low-income households receiving permanent and short-term supportive housing assistance, including rent or utility assistance.”

The House and Senate leadership met with President Obama earlier today to discuss the way out of this manufactured fiscal crisis. President Obama held a press conference after the talks, which are available on the White House site. Many economists agree with AIDS United’s call for a balanced approach to resolve sequestration with increased revenue and additional thoughtful cuts to discretionary programs. However, the prospect is grim on reaching a deal in the next couple of days since Republicans have stated that they will not accept a deal that includes increased revenue while the President has said such revenue must be part of a deal. Public polling has consistently shown that most Americans have supported a balanced approach that includes revenue increases.

The next stage in the cascade of fiscal deadlines is March 27, when the current Continuing Resolution (CR) that funds the government expires. It has been reported that House Republicans have agreed to support a House Appropriations Committee plan to move forward next week with a hybrid appropriations bill for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013. The bill will use bills negotiated with the Senate—Defense, Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies as the vehicle to carry the continuing resolution for all the other federal agencies through the end of the Fiscal Year (FY) September 30. The entire bill will be written to the funding level prescribed by the Budget Control Act for FY13 and adjusted for budget sequestration – for a total discretionary spending level of $972 billion. The bill is expected to come up on the House floor early next week.

In the Senate, Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) has indicated that she will likely try to amend the entire bill to include complete bills, not just a Continuing Resolution for all the domestic agencies, and perhaps add a package providing alternatives to the sequester. If the Congress does not pass the funding package prior to March 27th the government will shut down. Right now the Congress is scheduled to begin their Passover/Easter two week District Work Period on March 22nd. We urge you to consider meeting with your Members of Congress during the District Work Period if sequestration is not solved by that time. We will continue to update you on the fiscal situation. Please look out for new information and potential alerts in the coming weeks.

Coincidentally, March 2nd is Dr. Seuss’ 109th birthday. In his honor, here is a Seussian style sequestration sonnet thanks to National Priorities Project (with special reference to AIDS research).

More States Continue to Expand Medicaid

In the last several weeks, several high profile Republican governors in four states, including Florida, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio have said that they now plan to expand Medicaid despite the ideological opposition the Affordable Care Act has faced from many conservatives.

Perhaps most surprising was Governor Rick Scott of Florida, who had previously announced that he planned to reject the Medicaid expansion within days of the Supreme Court ruling that made the expansion optional for the states. Despite his newfound support of the expansion, former Governor Jeb Bush and key members of the Florida legislature, including its Speaker Will Wilkinson (R), have continued to oppose expansion. Such opposition is short-sighted. According to a report released by Families USA, 1.8 million Floridians would gain health care and add 71,300 new jobs by 2016 in the state. Six additional recently released state reports (for Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wisconsin) can be found here.

In addition, the Kaiser Family Foundation recently updated its data and map found here on the status of Medicaid expansion across the United States. According to their calculations, 27 states support Medicaid expansion, 16 oppose, and eight are still weighing their options.

AIDS United urges all states to move toward expansion as quickly as possible. Although a state can opt into Medicaid later, there are strong benefits to opting in and implementing the expansion prior to 2014. Most importantly, the federal government will cover all cost for those newly eligible for Medicaid through 2016 and then gradually moving to 90 percent payment in 2020. So the most value for states is to opt in early.

House Passes Expanded Violence Against Women Act; Sent to President Obama to Sign

In a 286-138 vote, the House of Representatives passed the Senate approved Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) on Thursday, February 28, over a year since its expiration in 2011. First adopted in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act authorizes up to $660 million in funding each year for the next five years for programs that help prosecute sexual assault and domestic abuse cases and assist crime victims. The expanded Act now offers protections to immigrant, LGBT and Native American victims of abuse.

These expanded protections were the source of much of the Republican backlash against VAWA; some argued that the ability of tribal courts to prosecute non-Native Americans accused of domestic violence or sexual assault against Native American women on reservations is unconstitutional. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) proposed a version of the bill that did not expand protection to LGBT victims of abuse and scaled back the ability for tribal courts to prosecute non-Native Americans, but the House failed to pass it. Despite the delay in passage, this landmark legislation will continue to provide protections to those victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse who need it the most.

CDC Releases 2011 HIV Surveillance Reports

On February 28, 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its 2011 HIV Surveillance Report, and for the first time, presented data on diagnosed HIV infection from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and 6 territories. The report emphasized the disproportionate impact that HIV has on men who have sex with men (MSM) and racial minorities: for example, MSM represent two percent of the U.S. population but account for 62% of all HIV diagnoses. This year’s report also presents HIV diagnosis data by region of residence for the first time, allowing for a more comprehensive understanding of the geographic distribution of diagnosed HIV infection in the U.S. This report continues to highlight the stability in numbers and rates of HIV diagnosis despite the overwhelming array of science, knowledge and tools available to prevent new infections.

Click here to view the full CDC report.

Last week on February 26, the CDC also released the first HIV Surveillance Supplemental Report on HIV Diagnoses among older Americans. The estimated percentage of adults and older Americans living with diagnosed HIV infection increased 14.3%, from 28.6% at the end of 2007 to 32.7% at the end of 2009. You can read the full report by clicking here.

amfAR Releases New Syringe Exchange Film

amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, released a new film, "The Exchange," that details the public health benefits and value of syringe exchange programs. The film features compelling testimony from people who use syringe exchanges, people who work at syringe exchanges, police officers and researchers. It calls for an end to the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs and shows how ending the ban will ultimately lead to better public health outcomes. The film is a strong new tool that can help educate people about the issue. It can be viewed, along with other materials on syringe exchange programs, by clicking here.

AIDS United Mourns Surgeon General C. Everett Koop

Dr. C. Everett Koop, the surgeon general for the Reagan Administration just after the disease of HIV was discovered, died on Monday in New Hampshire. As a conservative with ties to the religious right, Koop’s nomination had been opposed by many liberals who feared the potential for politicizing the office. Instead Koop used his office to wage a campaign within the administration to more aggressively fight HIV, ultimately issuing a Surgeon General’s report on AIDS in October of 1986 that spoke candidly about preventing HIV and controversially called for the use of condoms for those who did not practice monogamy or abstinence. The release of the report was the first time that the federal government spoke out forcefully about the AIDS epidemic emphasizing that AIDS was a disease and that the government response must be to fight the disease, not people with the disease.

Dr. Koop followed the report by mailing a booklet, “Understanding AIDS” to 107 million U.S. households, the largest public health mailing ever undertaken. Ultimately, Dr. Koop almost single-handedly changed the Reagan Administration’s response to HIV from hostility and apathy towards a fuller, more open response based on the principles of public health. In the process he earned the gratitude of many people living with, responding to, and affected by HIV.

Ronald Johnson, AIDS United’s Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, honored Surgeon General Koop’s memory at this year’s AIDSWatch Congressional briefing by noting that in championing an aggressive response to HIV he was forced to speak out against the prevailing attitudes within the Reagan administration. Noting that the fight continues to make sure that evidence based prevention, education and criminal justice policies must be prioritized over ineffective approaches, Mr. Johnson called Koop “a “stellar example of putting science over politics.”

Marsha Martin, Director of the Urban Coalition for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (UCHAPS) and a member of AIDS United’s Public Policy Committee, told us that “Dr. Koop was America's doctor.” She was able to speak with Dr. Koop most recently following the inaugural C. Everett Koop address and award at the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research 2010. She stated, "Dr. Koop set the bar on how our national government should and must respond to the needs of America's communities and citizens. His last public appearance before the HIV community was an example of his commitment to sharing his ideals about how to achieve and maintain the health of our nation. He shared his wisdom, insights and humor as he recounted the history of the US response to HIV and 'his no nonsense conclusion' that HIV was a serious enough medical concern that 'every American needed to know.' And the rest is history. We are a better nation for it."

Dr. Koop’s New York Times obituary can be found here.

Dr. Koop was remembered on the White House’s AIDS.gov blog here .

Announcements

Upcoming HIV/AIDS Awareness Days

Mark your calendars now! March 10, 2013, is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and March 20, 2013, is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. To learn more about these and other HIV/AIDS Awareness Days throughout the year, click here.

The 24th National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS will take place March 3-9, 2013. This is an annual HIV awareness campaign that mobilizes faith communities and highlights the contributions and the impact congregations are making in areas of HIV prevention, testing, direct service, advocacy and community engagement. To learn more, visit their website by clicking here.


“HIV Transmission and Prevention of Transmission: Working toward the End of the AIDS Pandemic” Event

The District of Columbia Developmental Center for AIDS Research (DC D-CFAR) is hosting a seminar featuring Dr. Myron Cohen, the J. Herbert Bate Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology and Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Cohen will present on “HIV Transmission and Prevention of Transmission: Working toward the End of the AIDS Pandemic.”

The seminar will take place on Wednesday, March 13, 2013, from 6:30-8:00 PM at the George Washington University Marvin Center – Continental Ballroom, which is located at 800 21st Street, NW, Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public, and you can register here.


Petition to the Obama Administration to Commit Resources to Ensure an AIDS Free Generation

On the heels of President Obama’s State of the Union Speech and in advance of the release of the Administration’s budget, the convening groups of the Federal AIDS Policy Partnership (FAPP) and the Global AIDS Policy Partnership (GAPP) posted a petition to the White House website’s “We the People” section. The petition calls on President Obama to fully support funding for an AIDS-free generation. We have 30 days to get 100,000 signatures to garner a response from the White House!

We ask that you share the petition with your organizations, supporters and grassroots. 100,000 may seem like a daunting goal but with the weight of these communities behind it we should be able to reach and exceed it.

Some in the community are using the hashtags #endaids, #aidsfreegeneration, and #dontcutnow in social media, and we ask that as you push the petition over your own social media channels you consider doing the same.

You can sign the petition here! Please share this with everyone you know so we can reach 100,000 signatures!


UCHAPS Launches Search for New Board Members

The Board of Directors of the Urban Coalition for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (UCHAPS) is launching the search for new Board candidates. They ask for your assistance in distributing this Call for Nominations package widely around your professional network and sphere of influence. The information provided includes the nomination process, nomination form, and details about Board Member responsibilities.

The deadline to submit the nomination application is March 31, 2013. If you or anyone interested in a Board position has a question, please contact Kirby Reed directly (kirby@uchaps.org), who will forward the inquiry to the Nominations Committee.

Thank you, and we appreciate your help in sharing this Call for Nominations around the community.

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