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JUNE 14, 2013
House Passes Bipartisan Amendment to Report on Modernizing Military Rules Regarding HIV

The House passed Amendment 153, proposed by Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), to the National Defense Authorization Act yesterday. Hundreds of people contacted their Members of Congress urging them to support the amendment, which would require a report to review the status of HIV in the code, policies and regulations in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and whether they are based on the most medically up-to-date, accurate, science-based understanding of the methods, risks and consequences of HIV transmission, including an accurate understanding of ramifications on public health.

This report is especially needed because many of the laws, policies and regulations regarding HIV were written at a time when less was known about the methods and risks of HIV transmission and prior to the development of effective antiretroviral HIV treatment. Consequently, service members have faced disproportionate sentencing or punishments for behaviors and activities in which no transmission occurred or where there was no or only a negligible risk of HIV transmission.

Disproportionate punishment and sentencing leads to poor public health outcomes, including creating incentives for service members to avoid HIV testing, which could potentially affect their own health and put their partners at risk.

AIDS United believes the amendment will protect service members and the public, as well as people with HIV, by ending the current disincentive to get tested for HIV. It would also save taxpayer dollars by avoiding unnecessary or inappropriate prosecutions. Passage of this amendment is a key step towards ending HIV criminalization in the military! Click here for a press release from Rep. Lee’s office on the passage of the amendment.

North Carolina Senate Passes Partial Syringe Decriminalization/Needle Stick Prevention Bill

On Wednesday, June 12, in a unanimous 48-0 vote, the North Carolina Senate passed HB 850, a partial syringe decriminalization/needle stick prevention bill. This decriminalizes the possession of syringes and other sharps if a law enforcement officer asks a person if he or she is carrying syringes or sharp objects prior to a search and the person gives them up. The bill now moves to Governor McCrory to sign; to reach his office, call (919) 814-2000, and ask that he supports HB 850, which will reduce law enforcement needle sticks in North Carolina.

The passage of this bill is in part because of the intensive advocacy efforts of AIDS United grantee North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition (NCHRC). Robert Childs, Executive Director of NCHRC, said this is "a great victory for public order and public health, where both law enforcement and the community benefit from this bill." NCHRC is focused on grassroots advocacy, resource development, coalition building and direct services for law enforcement and those made vulnerable by drug use, sex work, overdose, immigration status, gender, STIs, HIV and hepatitis. For more information about NCHRC’s work, please contact Robert Childs at robert@nchrc.net.

Immigration Debate Continues on Senate Floor

In an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote (84-15) , the Senate voted to bring up and debate S. 744: The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. Debate over the comprehensive immigration reform bill is expected to last weeks, yet the strongly bipartisan vote to introduce debate on the floor is promising.

Unfortunately, several key amendments that AIDS United has been supporting were withdrawn from consideration during the Senate Judiciary Committee proceedings. However, some promising amendments have been filed (or are in the process of being filed) in preparation for debate on the Senate floor.

Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) has proposed the Taxpayer Fairness Amendment, which would allow immigrants who are lawfully present (and therefore paying income taxes) to use federally-funded programs such as the Ryan White Program, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Medicare. As the bill is currently written, most immigrants would be barred from accessing federal health coverage and means-tested benefits programs for up to 15 years. An amendment from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to shorten the amount of time aspiring citizens would need to spend in the U.S. before securing access to federally funded programs was also filed. During committee, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) withdrew an amendment to allow same-sex spouses to be sponsored for immigration. AIDS United strongly supports all of these amendments and hopes that they will be proposed and approved on the floor. At the same time, AIDS United is working in coalition to stop amendments that will weaken health or other protections in the bill. We will continue to monitor the movement of critical amendments as they are debated on the Senate floor. Great resources and information about both health care and LGBT rights in the immigration process can be found at The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and Immigration Equality.

Senate Passes Farm Bill with $4.1 Billion Cut to SNAP

On Monday, June 10, in a 66-27 vote, the Senate passed their version of the Farm Bill, which guides and authorizes funding for most federal farm and food policies, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). Sadly, the Farm Bill passed by the Senate included a cut of $4.1 billion over ten years to SNAP, which will result in 500,000 households losing an average of $90 per month in SNAP benefits. AIDS United opposes these cuts: HIV disproportionately impacts low-income individuals who may also be receiving support through SNAP. Proper nutrition and a well-balanced diet helps people living with HIV maintain a healthy weight, strengthen their immune systems, and prevent infection. It also helps to build and maintain muscle, allowing medications to work better and enabling individuals to handle the side effects of medications.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) has said that the House will begin debate on its version of the Farm Bill later this month. While the SNAP cuts in the Senate Farm Bill are extremely damaging, the cuts in the House Farm Bill are even worse: the House version proposes $20 billion in cuts to SNAP over 10 years. To draw attention to the already limited benefits to SNAP recipients and the devastating effect that SNAP cuts proposed in the House bill would have on families across the country, 27 Representatives are participating in the “Live on a Food Stamp Budget” challenge this week. This challenge encourages Members to try living on SNAP benefits for an entire week, which means they are limited to $4.50/day for food. AIDS United continues to work with other, including the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), to oppose the detrimental cuts to SNAP proposed in the House Farm Bill. Click here for FRAC’s statement on the passage of the Senate Farm Bill.

Study Finds PrEP Effective in Preventing HIV Among Injection Drug Users

Results of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Bangkok Tenofovir Study were released yesterday, June 13, and revealed that Tenofovir, a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) agent, was able to lower HIV infection risk by 49% when taken daily by injection drug users in Bangkok, Thailand. This is the first study focused on PrEP use among injection drug users, and the promising results highlight the need for continued support for PrEP research.

For more information on the study and possible implications, visit the HIV Prevention Trial Network’s statement here. Click here for the publication of the findings.

President Obama Hosts White House LGBT Pride Event

On Thursday, President Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, hosted the annual White House LGBT Pride Month reception. AIDS United’s Board Chair, Douglas Brooks, and Political Director, William McColl, were present for the event. The President mentioned HIV several times in his remarks, noting the lifting of the HIV entry ban and releasing the first national HIV/AIDS strategy as particular successes. He also pointed to the protections of the Affordable Care Act, stating “We’ve got to make access to health care more available and affordable for folks living with HIV. We’ve got to implement the protections in the Affordable Care Act.”

A video and transcript of the President’s remarks can be found here.

Announcements

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 m2MPowerinitiative, 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 below, 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.


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

This week marked the 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 her or him 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

Join the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance for a webinar on Tuesday, June 25 from 3 – 4:30 p.m. ET 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 27 is National HIV Testing Day

Thursday, June 27, is National HIV Testing Day! Nearly 20% of people living with HIV don’t know their status. Universal knowledge of HIV status is key to reducing new infections and achieving an AIDS-free generation. Check out the Greater than AIDS “I Got Tested” campaign for National HIV Testing Day!


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.

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