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JUNE 21, 2013
Supreme Court Ends Anti-Prostitution Pledge for Organizations Receiving PEPFAR

The Supreme Court yesterday struck down a provision of the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 . The act had required organizations who receive funds under the President’s Emergency Plan for AID Relief (PEPFAR) to have an explicit policy opposing prostitution. Since this is the primary source of international funding for many HIV/AIDS services, the pledge could have a widespread impact. Four agencies, including the Open Society Foundation, that provide HIV/AIDS services globally sued the government, stating that the pledge contradicts the marketplace of ideas and best practices in providing HIV services and renders their services less effective.

The strong 6-2 decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, came in the case, “Agency For International Development, et al V. Alliance For Open Society International, Inc.” The justices specifically noted that there were two requirements to receive funding under the Act: the first, “that no funds ‘may be used to promote or advocate the legalization or practice of prostitution,’ and that (2) no funds may be used by an organization ‘that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution.’” The majority said that the second requirement violates the First Amendment because it required organizations who received funding to adopt the United States government’s speech as its own beyond the scope of the funded program.

Justice Elena Kagan recused herself because she had participated in the government’s case during her time as the solicitor general. The two dissenting votes came from conservative Judges Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. The dissent essentially stated that the majority was incorrect since the government "may enlist the assistance of those who believe in its ideas to carry them to fruition," meaning that the U.S. government was seeking like-minded organizations to carry out their program. The majority specifically addressed this point, however, stating that the policy applied to speech well beyond the actual program and that in doing so the government was not seeking to work with groups it already agreed with; rather, it was seeking to compel grant recipients “to adopt a particular belief as a condition of funding.”

AIDS United and its predecessor organizations had signed on to several briefs at both the Supreme Court and lower court levels. The most recent Amicus Brief, which was filed on behalf of the Open Society Foundation, AIDS United and other friends of the court, can be found here.

AIDS United welcomes the Supreme Court's recognition that HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, and other civil society organizations must be able to reach populations that are at high risk for HIV with messages that have real meaning and resonate for them. There should not be artificial barriers, like the anti-prostitution pledge, blocking U.S. support of those organizations. We are glad that the First Amendment rights of organizations have been supported.

This ruling comes at an especially exciting moment since this week marks PEPFAR’s 10-year anniversary.

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke at the celebration of the landmark program’s anniversary, noting that this month, the millionth baby will be born HIV-free due to prevention of mother-to-child transmission programs supported by PEPFAR. For more information about PEPFAR’s success,
click here. To read Ambassador Goosby’s remarks on the occasion, click here.
Senate Unanimously Passes HIV Organ Policy Equity Act

On Monday, June 17, the Senate unanimously passed the bipartisan HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act (S. 330), which would repeal the ban on organ donation from HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients. The bill would also allow research into the safety of such organ donation procedures.

This ban has been in place since 1988, a time of fear and lack of knowledge of HIV. This bill could save hundreds of lives, as well as shorten the waiting list for those awaiting organ donations. It is supported by numerous public health, political, and medical groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union, and AIDS United.

Senate Fiscal Year 2014 Spending Allocations

On Thursday, June 20, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the 12 subcommittee appropriations for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 by a party line vote of 15-14. The allocations are known as a 302(b). The Senate total number is $1.058 trillion for discretionary spending based on the Senate budget that passed in March of this year and is the amount that was divided among the 12 appropriation subcommittees. In contrast, the House total 302(b) allocation is $967 billion for discretionary spending, $91 billion below the Senate total amount. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee, submitted an amendment for the Senate to base its total discretionary spending on the House’s $967 billion level; the amendment was defeated 14-15.

The Senate’s 302(b) total of $1.058 trillion assumes that the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, which went into effect on March 1, will be replaced or repealed. The House 302(b) total amount assumes sequestration remains in place. However, the House total ignores the Budget Control Act (BCA) provision that each year’s total sequester be split 50/50 between defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending and assumes all the cuts on the NDD side, leaving defense funding intact. Both the House and Senate allocations are contrary to current BCA rules.

The Labor, Health, Education and Related Agencies bill (Labor-H), where most of the domestic HIV discretionary funding resides, was allocated $164.3 billion, which is close to $43 billion more than was allocated in the House 302(b) of $121.8 billion. The Senate allocation is $1.253 billion more than was appropriated in FY 2013 prior to the cuts that were taken due to sequestration. The House Labor-H 302(b) is $34.7 billion below FY 2013 allocation prior to sequestration. The Senate is expected to debate the Labor-H appropriations bill in subcommittee and full committee in July. The House will have more difficulty debating its bill at the committee level since the spending cuts are so deep. Neither body has a clear path to floor consideration since any Senator or Representative could raise a Point of Order, citing a violation of the terms of the BCA.

According to Congressional Quarterly, Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, (D-MD) said the increased spending would promote “a thriving economy, provide for our national security, educate our children, train a competitive workforce, make important investments in physical infrastructure, medical breakthroughs, energy independence and really keep America moving.” But Richard C. Shelby (R-AL)., the ranking member of the panel, countered, “I recognize that we have tough choices to make but our decisions I think must be guided by the law as it currently stands” which includes sequestration.

The Senate Appropriations Committee also voted 20-9 to urge the Senate to immediately request a Budget Conference with the House, appoint Senate conferees, and convene the conference committee to complete the work on the budget resolution. Many Republican House Members do not want a Budget Conference Committee to meet because they know that any resolution of the differences between the House and Senate budgets likely would mean a discussion of eliminating sequestration by reaching a grand bargain on deficit reduction. Such a bargain can only be reached with a balanced approach toward deficit reduction that includes increased revenue.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Arizona's Voter Registration Requirements

On Monday, June 17, the Supreme Court reached a decision in Arizona v The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. (ITCA). The case reviewed challenges to Arizona’s Proposition (Prop) 200, a controversial bill requiring proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. Proponents of the measure believed it would stop undocumented immigrants from voting, but many believe that it is more likely to disenfranchise legal voters than prevent voter fraud. Some experts estimate that up to 38,000 citizens were unable to register, or were deterred from registering in this latest election, because of the onerous additional requirements set forth in Prop 200.

In a victory for voter equality, the majority of the Supreme Court (7-2) found the extra requirements to be pre-empted by the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The NVRA was meant to allow more citizens to vote by creating a uniform and simple registration process. The proof required by the Arizona measure was less accessible to people from low-income and minority communities and they were disproportionately kept from registering to vote by Prop 200.

AIDS United believes that a victory for voter equality is a victory for healthcare equality. Low-income and minority populations bear a disproportionate amount of HIV burden, and their political voice is especially important in healthcare and welfare legislation. By denying these populations their political voice, Arizona’s Proposition 200 threatened healthcare, welfare, and other legislation for the communities that most need them.

Next week, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on challenges to the Voting Rights Act, Proposition 8, and the Defense of Marriage Act. All of these issues have implications for people living with HIV. AIDS United will keep you informed of these important decisions as they are announced.

Dr. Jonathan Mermin Named Director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention

Dr. Jonathan “Jono” Mermin has been named the newest Director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dr. Mermin brings years of experience to this position: he is trained in internal medicine and preventive medicine, and has worked for the CDC in Uganda and Kenya on prevention, care and research programming. Most recently, he led the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention (DHAP).

Click here for a blog by Dr. Rima F. Khabbaz, Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases at the CDC, on Dr. Mermin’s appointment. Click here to read a letter on his appointment by the CDC Director, Dr. Tom Frieden.

AIDS United’s Public Policy Committee Member, the Urban Coalition for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (UCHAPS), released this statement.

House Fails to Pass Farm Bill with Major Cuts to SNAP

This Thursday, June 20, the controversial Farm Bill that threatened cuts to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) did not pass the House . Sixty-two Republicans joined Democrats and Independents in rejecting the bill, with a final vote count of 234 to 195. The bill would have cut funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps, by $20 billion over 10 years, threatening to cut benefits entirely for nearly two million people. No word yet as to whether the law will be re-written for a second attempt, if the House will attempt to negotiate without a bill, or if there will be a push for an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill. AIDS United continues to advocate for support for SNAP, which is often times a critical benefit for low-income people living with HIV.

After 505: An Interview with Steve Wakefield

By: Charles Stephens, Regional Organizer, AIDS United

This past April, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) announced it would stop providing injections to participants enrolled in the HVTN (HIV Vaccine Trials Network) 505 study. HVTN 505 was aimed at studying the effectiveness of an HIV vaccine regimen in preventing HIV infection in trial participants or reducing the viral load among those that become infected with HIV.

The Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB), the group of experts who examine the safety of patients and treatment efficacy during the course of a clinical trial, found that the vaccine regimen being studied did not prevent HIV nor did it reduce the viral load of participants that had been infected.

Over the past few years there has been considerable optimism and hope for the development of effective biomedical HIV prevention options, so the initial news was sobering. This is even more true given that nearly a year ago, the FDA approved Truvada for use as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), catapulting us into a new era of HIV prevention.

However, it’s important to keep things in perspective. The news about HVTN 505, though in some ways a setback, is an excellent learning opportunity and provides us with valuable information about developing an HIV vaccine that will actually be effective.

To provide greater context around these issues, I interviewed Steve Wakefield of HVTN, a widely respected HIV prevention research advocate and thought-leader in the field.

To read Charles’ interview with Steve Wakefield, click here.

New Immigration Amendment Increases Republican Support in Senate

On Thursday, June 20, Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Bob Corker (R-TN) proposed a new “border surge” amendment to the Senate immigration reform bill, S. 744: The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act . The amendment would: increase the number of border security agents by 20,000; spend $3.2 billion on equipment and technology to help border agents; require 700 miles of fencing to be built along the border; require implementation of the E-Verify employment verification system (to confirm employment eligibility); and requires installation of better entry and exit systems at all airports. This amendment is supported by the bipartisan group of eight Senators who negotiated the Senate's immigration reform process and has increased the chances of getting a significant level of Republican support for the immigration bill in the Senate, where it is expected to pass. However, increased Republican support is key to the bill’s success in the House, where immigration reform is sure to be a more difficult process. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill in the afternoon on Monday, June 24.

Earlier this week, the Congressional Budget Office found that the Senate bill would, in fact, increase tax revenues and reduce the federal budget deficit by $197 billion over 10 years. The net savings from the immigration bill have made it easier to propose spending increases like those called for in the "border surge" amendment.

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 inAIDS 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 July 31, 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 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!

Earlier this month was 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.


Support Health Access for Immigrants!

The Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO) is gathering signatures of community health center members, patients and supporters to speak out in support of immigration reform and health access for immigrants. The deadline to sign the petition has been extended to Monday, June 24, in order to coordinate the delivery of the petitions to leaders in Congress as part of a National Day of Action on June 25 to support health access in immigration reform.

Click here to sign the petition . The time is NOW to tell our federal legislators that we want immigration reform that includes access to health care for all!


Save the Date: Strategizing on 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!


Human Rights Campaign to Host a National Townhall Conference Call Following Supreme Court Decisions

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on Prop. 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) by the end of their term next week. Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin and Legal Director Brian Moulton will host a national townhall conference call the day after the Supreme Court decision at 8 p.m. ET to talk about the next chapter of this movement. For more details, and to register, please click here.


FDA Searching for Consumer Representatives on its Advisory Committees

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is requesting that any consumer organizations interested in participating in the selection of voting and/or nonvoting consumer representatives to serve on its advisory committees or panels notify FDA in writing. FDA is also requesting nominations for voting and/or nonvoting consumer representatives to serve on advisory committees and/or panels for which vacancies currently exist or are expected to occur in the near future. For more information, click here .

Data and Communications Webinar Series: Steps to Making Your Data Matter

The Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) is hosting a three-part webinar series as a guide in using data to tell your story in a powerful way. Learn how to access the U.S. Census Bureau through American FactFinder database, how to present data in a visually effective way, and how to share your data using different forms of communications. The webinar series will include a step-by-step process using relevant data in your communities on the Affordable Care Act.

If you would like to participate in all 3 of these webinars, make sure you register for each webinar by clicking on the registration links below.

Title: How to Find Your Data: Navigating American FactFinder

Date: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 at 12-1 pm Pacific time

Description: The intent of this webinar is to demonstrate the vast amount of data from the U.S. Census Bureau through American FactFinder.

Space is limited.
Reserve your July 2nd Webinar seat now at: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/207656218

Title: How to Make Your Data Look Pretty: Creating Tables, Graphs, and Infographics

Date: Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 12-1:30 pm Pacific time

Description: The intent of this webinar is to learn how to communicate data clearly and effectively through tables, graphs, and infographics.

Space is limited.
Reserve your July 9th Webinar seat now at: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/285903970

Title: How to Share Your Data: Using Social Media and Other Forms of Communication

Date: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at 12-1 pm Pacific time

Description: The intent of this webinar is to guide communities in how they can use communications to tell their story using data.

Space is limited.
Reserve your July 23rd Webinar seat now at: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/677405786


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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