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JULY 19, 2013
President's National HIV/AIDS Strategy Anniversary Brings New Continuum of Care Initiative and Relaunch of Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus

A new Continuum of Care initiative of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) and the re-launch of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus were the centerpieces of the third anniversary commemoration of the NHAS on July 15.

The “HIV Care Continuum Initiative,” announced by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, aims to better implement the NHAS by directing federal agencies to prioritize the continuum of HIV care by using federal resources to increase HIV testing, services, and treatment, as well as to improve patient access to each of those areas. According to Secretary Sebelius, the need for the new initiative is based on research showing that enhancing access to treatment both ensures better health outcomes for people living with HIV and helps to prevent new infections.

The initiative also creates a working group that will coordinate federal efforts to improve outcomes across the HIV care continuum. The group will be co-chaired by the White House Office of National HIV/AIDS Policy and HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health.

Sebelius also announced an $8-10 million per year, multi-year demonstration project to expand the capacity of community health centers, local health departments, and grantees to “better integrate HIV prevention and treatment across the continuum of care.” The demonstration project will be the result of a collaborative effort from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). It will target areas with high numbers of racial and ethnic minorities, who are disproportionately affected by the epidemic, and communities with a substantial unmet need for comprehensive HIV services.

Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) announced the re-launch of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, co-chaired by her, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Jim McDermott (D-WA). More information about the caucus can be found here . Lee also noted a recent success in adding an amendment directing the Department of Justice to review the status of HIV in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

A panel of activists addressed several challenges to improving the HIV care continuum, including the need for improved surveillance, pervasive HIV stigma, and the shortage of clinical providers of HIV care.

A video about the Continuum of Care Initiative can be found here.

A fact sheet about the initiative can be found here.

A blog post by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett can be found here.

The Executive Order about the Continuum of Care Initiative can be found here.

What to Expect: Enrolling in the Health Insurance Marketplaces

The deadline for full implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is quickly approaching (January 1, 2013), which means it is almost time for those without health insurance to begin enrolling in the new health insurance marketplaces! On October 1, 2013, open enrollment in the marketplaces begins; on January 1, 2014, health insurance coverage begins; and on March 31, 2014, open enrollment ends.

What does all this mean for YOU? HealthCare.gov is the new website designed to help individuals and families understand and navigate health care reform and the new insurance marketplaces. It is a great tool that can help you and your family learn the basics of enrollment before it begins on October 1, 2013. Here are some of the most important things you should know from HealthCare.gov about enrolling in the new health insurance marketplaces:

--Health insurance marketplaces are run by either individual states, the federal government, or a partnership between the two. For a list of states and their decisions regarding marketplaces, click here. Regardless of who is running the marketplace, the health insurance plan options provided must meet the minimum requirements for qualified health plans, which includes offering the same set of essential health benefits. These include at least:

  • Ambulatory patient services (outpatient care you get without being admitted to a hospital)
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization
  • Maternity and newborn care (care before and after your baby is born)
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment (this includes counseling and psychotherapy)
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices (services and devices to help people with injuries, disabilities, or chronic conditions to gain or recover mental and physical skills)
  • Laboratory services
  • Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
  • Pediatric services

--When you use the health insurance marketplaces, you may be eligible for lower costs on monthly premiums or out-of-pocket costs, or even free or low-cost care. These kinds of subsidies or deductions will depend on your income and family size. On October 1, 2013, you can fill out your health insurance marketplace application and find out how much money you can save (and most people who apply will qualify for lower costs of some kind).

Click here for a four-step chart from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that highlights the step-by-step process you can expect when it comes to enrolling in the health insurance marketplaces, then click here for more detailed information about this process.

If you visit the HealthCare.gov website, you can answer a couple of questions to find out what kind of insurance plans you might be eligible for come October 1, 2013. Once you reach the HealthCare.gov homepage, you’ll see a green “START NOW” button that will take you through some questions about your current health insurance status and possible coverage options for you. The website is also equipped with a 24/7 1-800 number and online chat feature, we encourage you to utilize these tools if you have any questions during the process. AIDS United encourages you to visit this extremely user-friendly site and begin exploring your health insurance options. We will continue updating you as more information becomes available.

Amendment to House Appropriations Bill Addresses HIV Criminalization

On Wednesday the House Commerce, Justice, and Science Committee added an amendment to their appropriations bill that would address HIV criminalization. The amendment would require the Attorney General to review existing laws and legal cases, and to make recommendations to protect people with HIV from unjust criminalization laws. The amendment was offered by Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and is similar to provisions contained in their REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act bill introduced earlier this year. See information below about how to ask your Representative to co-sponsor the REPEAL Act!

Information about the manager’s amendment, which included this provision, can be found here.

HIV Organ Donation Bill Passes House Committee

The HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act (H.R. 698; S. 330) was passed yesterday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The Senate passed the bill unanimously in June, and the bill’s many supporters are now looking for the bill to be brought to the House floor for review and a final vote.

This bipartisan bill is supported by AIDS United and numerous other organizations, including amfAR, the American Medical Association, the Human Rights Campaign, American Society of Transplant Surgeons, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This bill 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, which is currently prohibited. It has the potential to save hundreds of lives of HIV-positive organ-recipients, as well as shortening the transplant waiting lists. Watch this space for updates as it is considered in the House.

The text of the bill can be found here.


Get Ready for the August Recess!

August is right around the corner, which means Congress is about to be on a month-long recess! So your Members of Congress will be in their districts, conducting town halls and meeting with constituents to understand what issues are impacting them the most. The August recess is the perfect time for individuals and organizations to meet with their Members of Congress to remind them that HIV is an issue that impacts YOUR community! AIDS United is putting together an August recess toolkit that can be used by individuals and organizations to make the most out of this time. We will be sending out the toolkit soon, so be on the lookout and start thinking about the meetings you’ll want to have with your Members of Congress!

Congressional Briefing on Syringe Services Programs

A briefing on Capitol Hill will take place on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, on "Prescription Opioids, Heroin and Disease Prevention: Law Enforcement, Research and Community Perspectives." The briefing is held in cooperation with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

The briefing will review syringe services programs on the front lines of the nation's opioid and heroin epidemics. The briefing will also include the screening of a short film produced by amfAR titled The Exchange. The screening will be followed by a discussion of program and policy issues critical to advancing public safety and health on topics including addiction, overdose, HIV and Hepatitis C.

The briefing will take place from 2:30-4:00 P.M. on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in room 208-209 at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. To RSVP,click here or write to rsvp.policyoffice@amfar.org.

This briefing is arranged in conjunction with: amfAR, AIDS United, Baltimore Student Harm Reduction Coalition, Drug Policy Alliance, Evergreen Treatment Services (Seattle, WA), Harm Reduction Coalition, HIV Medicine Association, Lifelong AIDS Alliance, National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc., National Minority AIDS Council, North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition and Tapestry Health.

African American Hepatitis C Action Day and Webinar

The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc. (NBLCA), in partnership with the Harm Reduction Coalition and theCoalition for Positive Health Empowerment (COPE), is spearheading the first annual African American Hepatitis C Action Day, Thursday, July 25, 2013, a commemoration designed to heighten public awareness about the devastating impact of the Hepatitis C epidemic on communities of African descent. Harm Reduction Coalition and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Regional Resource Network Program, in partnership with Coalition for Positive Health Empowerment (C.O.P.E.) and the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc. (NBLCA), are presenting a webinar on “ African Americans and Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C is the most common chronic blood-borne infection in the United States and a leading cause of chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. African Americans and Blacks have a higher prevalence of chronic Hepatitis C infection compared with non-Hispanic white Americans and are twice as likely to have ever been infected with Hepatitis C.

This webinar will take place on Thursday, July 25, and will provide information on the impact of Hepatitis C on African Americans and strategies to address the viral hepatitis C epidemic in the African-American community.

Click here to register for the webinar TODAY!

This action day is in conjunction with the 6th annual World Hepatitis Day, which is July 28, 2013. Learn more about events going on that day by clicking here.

Positive Women’s Network – USA Seeking HIV-Positive Women for Survey

Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA) is celebrating its fifth birthday! To mark the occasion, PWN-USA is seeking input from women living with HIV in the United States, including trans women, to help build a stronger future for women living with HIV/AIDS in the US. Click here to access the survey, and please share widely.

Pledge to Take Action on Global Female Condom Day, September 16, 2013!

September 16, 2013, marks the second annual Global Female Condom Day, and the National Female Condom Coalition and Universal Access to Female Condoms Joint Programme are seeking your support! Click here and pledge to take action along with female condom advocates across the globe on September 16, 2013.

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

Last month 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 forPneumocystis 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.

AVAC Accepting Applications for 2014 Advocacy Fellowships

AVAC, Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention, is accepting applications now until August 5, 2013, 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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