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JUNE 7, 2013
AIDS United Celebrates the Life of Senator Frank Lautenberg

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), an ally to the HIV community, passed away on June 3, 2013. Sen. Lautenberg, the only remaining World War II veteran in the Senate, was an original cosponsor of the Ryan White CARE Act in 1990 and continued to stand with the HIV community throughout his time in the Senate. He was a strong supporter of same-sex marriage, women’s rights, reproductive freedom and comprehensive sexual education. Sen. Lautenberg was also a strong supporter of syringe exchange programs and served as Chair of the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee in 2007 when the ban on the use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs in Washington, D.C., was removed. The Senate has lost a great civil rights champion, but his legacy remains.

Senate Expected to Vote on Farm Bill and Cuts to SNAP

On Monday, June 10, 2013, the Senate is expected to vote on final passage of the Farm Bill, the comprehensive piece of legislation that guides and authorizes funding for most federal farm and food policies, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). A cut of $4.1 billion over 10 years to SNAP is included in the Senate bill, meaning 500,000 households will lose an average of $90 per month in SNAP benefits.

While these cuts are extremely damaging, they pale in comparison to the proposed SNAP cuts in the House’s Farm Bill, which total $20 billion over 10 years. The House is expected to take up their version of the bill the week of June 17. In preparation of the debates that will occur on the House floor beginning that week, some Members of Congress are participating in a “Live on a Food Stamp Budget” challenge. The challenge, sponsored by Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), encourages Members to try living on a SNAP benefit for either one day or an entire week to highlight the already-limited benefits to SNAP recipients and the threat of the unconscionable cuts to SNAP proposed in the House bill.

For more information about the two Farm bills and the damaging cuts they propose, click here to read a guest blog by Jim Weill, President of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).

Senate Begins Floor Debate of Immigration Reform Bill

On Friday, June 7, 2013, the Senate resumed consideration of S. 744: The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The bill is expected to remain on the floor for at least two to three weeks as various Senators propose numerous amendments to the bill. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) will sponsor an amendment to provide undocumented children (also known as “little Dreamers") with the same five-year pathway to citizenship offered to older youth under the DREAM Act, which is included in the current Senate bill. As written, the bill only provides a faster track to citizenship for Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and are now older than 16.

Other amendments that could possibly be brought up on the floor include the amendments withdrawn during the committee approval process by Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), which would expand eligibility of all lawfully present immigrants to Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Medicare. Sen. Hirono also proposed amendments that would expand health care access to aspiring citizens. Such amendments are key to ensuring that aspiring citizens who are HIV-positive stay healthy and are engaged in care; furthermore, allowing for full engagement in health care services, including affordable options like Medicaid, can be an important tool in preventing disease before it happens.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) may also propose his amendment to allow same-sex spouses to be sponsored for immigration as along as one of the spouses was an American citizen and they were legally married either in a U.S. state or in another country that legally recognizes same sex marriages. Sen. Leahy withdrew this amendment from the committee approval process, recognizing that Republicans would have prevented the bill from moving out of committee if this amendment was included.

However, many of those amendments expected to be proposed on the Senate floor over the next few weeks will weaken the bill from the perspective of both AIDS United and other members of the progressive immigration reform community. We will continue to monitor the movement of critical amendments as they are debated on the Senate floor.

Immigration Court Rules Against Deporting HIV-Positive Man

Earlier this week an immigration appeals court issued a rare reversal of an immigration judge’s decision to deport an HIV-positive immigrant. The immigrant, Jose Luis Ramirez, had been in the U.S. due to ongoing abuse from police officers in Mexico because he is gay. After becoming homeless in the U.S., he was convicted of solicitation of oral sex for money resulting in the hearing to deport him. The Department of Homeland Security argued that Mr. Ramirez’s HIV-positive status made the solicitation conviction a "particularly serious crime." The Department retracted its statement about HIV after several organizations, including AIDS United’s Public Policy Committee Members, the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, submitted an amicus brief asking the Board of Immigration Appeals to overturn the deportation ruling.

The amicus brief provided scientific evidence that contracting HIV through oral sex is rare and that the original judge overestimated the consequences of HIV. The brief notes that rather than being inevitably lethal, HIV has now become a manageable disease for most people living with it. Lambda Legal and the Public Law Center organized and led the efforts to write the amicus brief. Although immigration cases are considered civil, not criminal, cases, the ruling sheds light on the outdated understanding of HIV that has led to criminal prosecutions and sometimes lengthy sentences for consensual sex and for conduct, such as spitting or biting, which poses no significant risk of HIV transmission.

The judgment reversing the decision can be found here.

Fiscal Year 2014 Appropriations Update

This week the full House of Representatives passed the first two appropriations bills –HR 2216 Military Construction – VA by a vote of 421 – 4 and HR 2217 Homeland Security Appropriations Act by a vote of 245 - 182. In approval of the rule to debate the Military Construction – VA appropriation bill the House “deemed” (accepted) the House budget amount of $967 billion as the total amount they would spend on appropriations for this year. The budget had to be deemed since the House and Senate have not held a conference committee meeting to reconcile their two different budget amounts. The Senate is expected to deem $1.058 billion as their funding amount later this month when they announce their Appropriations subcommittee amounts and begin their markup process.

The passage of these two appropriations bills is important to the HIV community because they set in place the subcommittee allocations, known as 302(b) allocations, for the rest of the Appropriations Committees. The Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-H) subcommittee allocation for Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) is estimated to be 18.6% below FY13 after sequestration. AIDS United staff does not believe the Labor-H bill at this low allocation will be debated in House subcommittee, full Appropriations committee, or on the House floor. The amount of cuts to the important programs that encompass the bill necessary to achieve an 18% reduction would not be something any Member would want to support. We believe we will have a repeat of years past when we are unable to see the details of the bill since the Chair would not be able to get it out of the full committee.

House leadership continues to say that all appropriations bills will be processed through regular order, meaning markups at the subcommittee and committee level and open floor debate. However, the above numbers do not bode well for such a process.

This year the Senate Appropriations committee has new leadership: Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who has publically stated she wants to proceed with regular order. Her top line amount does not include sequestration, but does include the caps set by the Budget and Control Act in 2011. We understand the Senate process of markup in subcommittee and full committee will start the week of June 17. Since the House and Senate have not yet reached a “grand bargain” on how to turn off sequestration, and given the $91 billion difference between the two budgets, it looks like Fiscal Year 2014 will again be based on a Continuing Resolution. There is also a real possibility of a government shutdown on October 1 since sequestration has not been turned off and the grand bargain has not given the Congress the funding it needs to allocate sensible government spending.

What's in YOUR HIV Prevention Toolbox?

Attention U.S.-based organizations (including those in the territories) serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning people! Did you know that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) are more severely affected by HIV than any other group in the United States?

What can you do to help? You can help spread the word about HIV prevention to the young gay and bisexual men that your organizations serve — and have fun doing it! Participate in AIDS United’s Facebook video contest, “What’s in YOUR HIV Prevention Toolbox?” You could win up to $4,000!

Work with your U.S.-based LGBTQ organization’s staff and/or volunteers to produce a one-minute video that promotes HIV prevention tools and fits the theme, “What’s in your HIV Prevention Toolbox?” Entry submissions will be accepted via AIDS United’s Facebook page June 1 – 30, 2013. The videos from the three organizations with the greatest number of votes at 11:59 p.m. on June 30, 2013, will receive up to $4,000 as an incentive to begin addressing HIV in their regular work.

The “What’s in Your HIV Prevention Toolbox?” video contest is part of our m2MPower initiative, which seeks to halt the rising rates of HIV among gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men. The official contest rules and regulations are here, and if you have questions you can email HIVtoolbox@aidsunited.org.

What are you waiting for? Start producing your video now! Click here to learn more about the contest’s rules and regulations.

NMAC Launches RISE to Fight HIV in Black Gay and Bisexual Men

To address the unique factors fueling the exploding HIV epidemic in Black gay and bisexual men in the United States, the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) released a report called “RISE Proud: Combating HIV Among Black Gay and Bisexual Men.” RISE stands for “Resources to Improve, Strengthen and Empower,” and is a multi-year project of NMAC with support from the Ford Foundation. It examines the available research and existing interventions focusing on Black gay and bisexual men to develop an evidence-based action plan to address structural and societal contributors to HIV vulnerability among this population.

The report was released on June 5 at special panel discussion held on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C., and speakers included Kali Lindsey, Director of Legislative & Public Affairs, National Minority AIDS Council; Dr. William L. Jeffries, IV, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. David Holtgrave, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Ernest Hopkins, National Black Gay Men's Advocacy Coalition. To read the full report and recommendations, click here. To view the launch event, click here.

Announcements

Email your Republican Members of Congress TODAY to Support the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act!

This week marked 32nd anniversary of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) that first identified AIDS. Five patients in Los Angeles were treated for Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia and were the first to be identified in the MMWR with symptoms of what would later be known as AIDS. Thirty-two years later, we finally have the tools, scientific knowledge, and expertise to see the end of HIV.

Despite our wealth of knowledge now, 32 states and 2 U.S. territories still have criminal statutes based on perceived exposure to HIV. H.R. 1843, the REPEAL (‘‘Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal”) HIV Discrimination Act, is bipartisan legislation that addresses the serious problem of discrimination in the use of criminal and civil commitment laws against those who test positive for HIV. This bill would modernize current criminal law approaches that target people living with HIV for felony charges and severe punishments for behavior that is otherwise legal or that poses no measurable risk of HIV transmission.

The time to sign is NOW. CLICK HERE to email your Republican Member of Congress and encourage them to sign on as a cosponsor to the bipartisan REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act! It is crucial to have significant Republican support for this bill before reaching out to Democratic Members. Without strong initial Republican backing, we will be unable to achieve full bipartisan support for this critical issue.


Save the Date: Strategizing Around the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act Webinar

Join the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance for a webinar on Tuesday, June 25 from 3:00pm-4:30pm EST to strategize how you and your community can advocate for the federal REPEAL (Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal) HIV Discrimination Act this summer. REPEAL is a key step towards ending unfair and unjust HIV criminalization laws in the United States. Webinar panelists include AIDS United’s Political Director William McColl, Jirair Ratevosian, Legislative Director for Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Robert Suttle, Assistant Director at The Sero Project. Click here to register for the webinar today!


June 8 is Caribbean-American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

HIV has had a disproportionate impact on the Caribbean Diaspora and the Caribbean-American communities throughout the United States for over 20 years. Health disparities, inadequate access to health care and HIV/AIDS are major issues in this population. Click here to learn more about Caribbean-American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and events going on in your area.


AVAC Accepting Applications for 2014 Advocacy Fellowships

AVAC, Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention, is now accepting applications for their 2014 HIV Prevention Research Advocacy Fellowships. The goal of AVAC’s Advocacy Fellowship is to expand the capacity of advocates and organizations to monitor, support and help shape biomedical HIV prevention research and implementation of proven interventions worldwide. The Advocacy Fellowship is guided by AVAC’s conviction that effective and sustainable advocacy grows out of work that reflects organizational and individual interests, priorities and partnerships.

The Advocacy Fellowship provides support to emerging and mid-career advocates to design and implement advocacy projects focused on biomedical HIV prevention research and implementation activities in their countries and communities. These projects are designed to addresses locally identified gaps and priorities. Fellows receive training, full-time financial support and technical assistance to plan and implement a targeted one-year project within host organizations working in HIV/AIDS and/or advocacy.

Applications are due August 5, 2013; click here for more information about how to apply.

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