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MAY 17, 2013
We Continue to Need Your Help, Now More Than Ever!

Congress continues to contemplate important decisions about the budget, deficit and sequestration (across-the-board, automatic cuts that went into effect in March 2013 and will remain in effect until Fiscal Year 2021 unless repealed). It’s clear to us that what Congress needs to hear are YOUR stories – about how important programs benefiting people living with HIV are, how the numerous cuts and cuts from the sequester have impacted you and your communities, etc. Now more than ever, Members of Congress need to hear from you, their constituents, so they can make informed decisions when it comes to these important issues.

Be on the lookout for Action Alerts from AIDS United – when the time comes, we’ll need you to make sure your voice is heard with your Members of Congress!

House Votes (Again) to Repeal Affordable Care Act

On Thursday, May 16, the House of Representatives voted for the 37th time to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in its entirety. The bill, H.R. 45, was introduced by Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and passed in a 229-195 vote, with two Democrats joining a unified Republican front to repeal the law. While the bill will likely die in the Democrat-controlled Senate, Republicans saw this vote as an opportunity to let newly elected Republicans go on record and voice their opposition to the bill, which celebrated its three-year anniversary in March.

Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the House Democratic Whip, chastised the vote, indicating that resolving the sequester with a vote for a balanced approach was a far greater priority than repealing the ACA. Rep. Hoyer suggested it was important to let the new Members of Congress vote on resolving the sequester as well.

House Appropriations Committee Releases Spending Levels for FY 2014

House Appropriations Committee Chair Harold Rogers (R-KY) yesterday released the FY 2014 funding targets for each of the twelve appropriation bills that together authorize total federal discretionary spending. The allocations, which are known as 302(b)s, total $967 billion. The total is consistent with the FY 14 budget resolution that the House passed earlier this year (H. Con. Res. 25), which includes continuation of sequestration. The 302(b) amounts are not detailed on a program-by-program level. Program specific funding, such as spending for domestic HIV programs, will be detailed in the separate appropriation bills, including the Labor/HHS bill for most domestic HIV spending.

The total spending cap of $967 billion represents a 7.3% reduction over the current FY 13 spending level. Again, following the draconian House budget resolution, the total assumes that the automatic spending cuts, sequestration, remain in place. This highlights the on-going and multiplying impact of sequestration on federal discretionary spending over the next several fiscal years.

The House 302(b) allocation for the Labor/HHS bill is $121.8 billion. This amount is 18.7% below the Labor/HHS spending level proposed by the House for FY 13 and $4 billion below the President’s FY 14 budget request. Even without the program detail, a ‘top-line” cut of this magnitude poses a serious threat to House proposed spending levels for the Ryan White Program, CDC programs for HIV, STIs, tuberculosis, and viral hepatitis, and implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The $967 billion total, as noted above, assumes that sequestration will remain in effect in FY 14. Defense spending, however, is largely held harmless with the FY 14 share of the sequester falling on non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending. This seems to ignore the Budget Control Act language that calls for sequester cuts to be split 50/50 between defense and non-defense spending. Once again, the House is moving to make NDD spending, which covers many programs for low-income and vulnerable populations, the sacrificial lamb to a deficit reduction approach that relies solely on spending cuts.

The full House Appropriations Committee plans to start its work of considering, i.e. marking up, the 12 appropriations bills with the Military Construction and Veterans Affair bill. The mark up is scheduled for Tuesday, May 21. Chairman Rogers wants to start with what is considered the politically easy bills. The Labor/HHS bill likely will be among the last appropriation bills that the full committee takes up.

The Senate has not yet released its 302(b) allocations. Reports are that the total will be $1.058 trillion, $91 billion more than the house numbers. The Senate total would assume that sequestration has been replaced or repealed.

For the complete set of House 302(b) allocations, click here.

"Good Samaritan" Overdose Bills Passed in New Jersey and Colorado, Momentum Continues

Earlier this month, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed the bipartisan Overdose Prevention Act, which provides immunity for witnesses and victims of drug overdoses in order to receive timely treatment. The bill also provides immunity to those health care professionals who prescribe, dispense or administer Naloxone or any similarly acting, FDA-approved drug. Nalaxone, also known as Narcan, is an opioid antagonist drug that can reverse the effects of overdose on opiates such as heroin. Jon Bon Jovi joined Governor Christie at the signing ceremony; thanks to a similar "Good Samaritan" bill in New York, his own daughter was not charged for an apparent overdose last year.

On May 10, 2013, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed SB 13-14, which, similar to the New Jersey law, will expand access to Naloxone by providing immunity for medical professionals who prescribe the drug to third parties, and for those individuals who subsequently administer the drug to those who have overdosed. On the same day, Governor Hickenlooper also signed SB 13-208, which ensures that individuals who participate in syringe access programs can carry clean syringes and return contaminated syringes for proper disposal without fear of ticketing or arrest. Both of these public health bills are important steps forward for Colorado, which has the second highest rate of prescription abuse in the country.

The issue of overdose prevention is strongly related to HIV/AIDS and has recently become more prominent for HIV/AIDS advocates as it has become clear that many people living with HIV, particularly injection drug users are strongly impacted by the potential for overdose on opiates. For more information on overdose and its relationship with HIV, read “Why Overdose Matters for People with HIV,” from the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network and Open Society Foundations.

May 19 is Hepatitis Testing Day

Sunday, May 19, 2013, is the second annual Hepatitis Testing Day. About 3 million adults in the United States are infected with Hepatitis C, most of which are baby boomers. However, between 65-75% of those infected with Hepatitis C are unaware of their infection, and lack of medical care can result in significant liver damage. Furthermore, between 800,000 and 1.4 million people are living with Hepatitis B in the United States. Like HIV, Hepatitis disproportionately impacts minority communities; African-Americans have significantly higher rates of Hepatitis C than other communities, while Asian and Pacific Islanders account for more than 50% of those living with Hepatitis B.

You can learn more about Hepatitis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) here.

To find Hepatitis Testing Day events near you, click here.


Senate Confirms Marilyn Tavenner as New Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator

On Wednesday, May 15, a bipartisan 91-7 vote in the Senate confirmed Marilyn Tavenner, MHA, BSN, RN, as the new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator. She has served as acting-administrator for CMS since 2011, but is the first confirmed administrator in seven years.

Given the important role that the CMS Administrator will play in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, AIDS United applauds the Senate’s overwhelmingly bipartisan confirmation of Tavenner.

DC D-CFAR Hosts “Evolution of Infectious Diseases” with Dr. Keith Crandall

The Washington, D.C., Developmental Center for AIDS Research (DC D-CFAR) will host a seminar on May 29, 2013, with Dr. Keith Crandall, who will present on “Evolution of Infectious Diseases.” The seminar will include an overview of the molecular evolution of HIV and HIV diversity. He will demonstrate with examples from his own research computational approaches to pathogen detection, diversity characterization, and diagnosing the evolution of drug and vaccine resistance in HIV. Dr. Crandall is the founding Director of the Computational Biology Institute at George Washington University. He has published over 200 papers and 3 books, including "The Evolution of HIV" published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 1999. The event will take place Wednesday, May 29, 2013, from 6:30-8:00pm, at the George Washington University Marvin Center – Room 310 and Amphitheater, located at 800 21st Street NW, Washington, D.C.

You can register for the free event here.

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