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AUGUST 2, 2013
Now It's Your Turn - Meet with Your Members of Congress During the August Recess

The August recess (August District Work Period) is the perfect time for you and your organization to meet with your Members of Congress to remind them that HIV is an issue that impacts YOUR community! Beginning August 3, 2013, until September 8, 2013, Members of Congress will be in their districts, conducting town halls and meeting with constituents to understand what issues are impacting them. AIDS United has put together an August recess advocacy toolkit that can be used by individuals and organizations to make the most out of this month-long recess.

Our August recess advocacy toolkit is specifically designed for HIV/AIDS advocates like you! Using Prezi, a web-based presentation application, we will take you through a fun and easy-to-follow presentation that will enable any HIV advocate - including you! - to 1) Find Your Members of Congress, 2) Organize a Meeting, 3) Meet Your Members of Congress and 4) Follow-Up – all from your home district!

Remember: You don’t need to come to Washington, D.C. to have an influence on Capitol Hill!

Our toolkit provides you with fact sheets and specific "asks" for your Members of Congress for the following topics:

  • The Ryan White Program and implementation of the Affordable Care Act
  • Funding for HIV-related programs
  • Comprehensive immigration reform that includes health care access for aspiring citizens
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Everything you need to conduct meetings with your Members of Congress during the August recess can be found by clicking here.

Now it's your turn to share your story with your Members of Congress and have an impact on the policies and programs affecting your community!

FY 2014 Appropriations Process Grinds to a Halt

The August Congressional recess begins today with the Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 appropriations process virtually at a standstill. As the recess begins, it seems all but certain that Congress will need to enact a short-term spending measure, known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), if a federal government shutdown is to be avoided on Oct. 1, which is the start of the new fiscal year. The stalled appropriation process was made clear with inaction in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate this week.

House Republicans seem to be unable to pass appropriation bills that match the spending levels of the House passed budget for FY ‘14, particularly with its deep cuts in non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending. Evidence of this was seen on Wednesday when the House Republican leadership withdrew the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) FY ’14 spending bill, H.R. 2610, from consideration on the House floor. The key factors were opposition by moderate House Republicans and nearly all House Democrats who think the NDD spending cuts are too deep and conservative House Republicans who think the cuts are not deep enough. Funding for domestic and global federal HIV/AIDS programs is included in NDD spending. The THUD bill includes funding for the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) Program. Last week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies cancelled a markup on the Labor/HHS spending bill and was unable to move the bill forward this week either. This bill includes funding for most domestic HIV/AIDS programs, such as the Ryan White Program and the CDC’s HIV prevention programs.

Similarly, the full Senate’s failure to end debate on the its version of the THUD spending bill, S. 1243, by a 54-43 vote suggests the Senate will have difficulty passing spending bills that are in line with its FY ’14 budget resolution. The THUD bill was the first FY ’14 spending bill to go to the full Senate. With the exception of Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), all Senate Republicans (some of whom had previously supported the bill) voted against ending debate which stopped the bill from moving to the Senate floor for now. The Senate THUD Appropriations bill does not include sequestration, the automatic, across-the-board budget cuts that went into effect March 1, 2013, in its bill, and is marked at $54 billion; this is $10 billion higher than the House THUD Appropriations Bill, which does include sequestration moving forward.

The situation in both chambers indicates that at the start of the recess a September agreement on a CR that allows the government to operate on October 1 will be difficult to reach. The chances for a “grand bargain” to repeal or replace sequestration by Oct. 1 are even slimmer. There are no official House-Senate negotiations on either reconciling the two budget resolutions or over individual appropriation bills. There are reports in the media that a bipartisan group of Senators are holding talks with White House officials but no solid progress is evident. There are also reports of separate meetings between White House officials, including the President’s Chief of Staff, and Congressional Republicans, but, again, no signs of progress on reaching agreements.

The seriousness of the stalled budget and appropriations processes was perhaps best summed up by House Appropriations Committee Chair Harold Rogers (R-KY). After the debacle of the House THUD bill, he criticized the decision, saying: “The House has declined to proceed on the implementation of the very budget it adopted just three months ago. Thus I believe that the House has made its choice: sequestration—and its unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts—must be brought to end.”

That’s the message that must be made loud and clear to all Senators and Representatives during the August recess. Sequestration is a bad policy and must be replaced. AIDS United strongly calls for replacing sequestration with a balanced approach that includes meaningful revenue growth and that allows for optimal funding support for critical public health and safety net programs, including Medicaid, Medicare, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). We urge you to take time in August to consider meeting meet with your Members of Congress and attend Town Halls. Let your voice be heard!

Hot Summer Recess for the Affordable Care Act

As Congress heads into its August District Work Period, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to be an issue of considerable partisan dispute. The House voted today for the 40th time to repeal the ACA on a partisan vote with the support of Congressional Republicans. H.R. 2009, the bill voted on, would prohibit enforcement of the ACA by the IRS. The bill passed 232 – 185 along partisan lines (with 4 Democrats – Reps. Barrow (D-GA), Matheson (D-UT), McIntyre (D-NC) and Peterson(D-MN) – crossing lines to vote in favor and 16 Members not voting). The roll call vote (no. 447) can be found here. Additional anti-ACA votes may take place before the end of the day.

Despite these actions, the Democratic-majority Senate will not hold a similar vote to defund the ACA. Additional conservative hostility to the ACA emerged in the Senate when Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) stated that appropriations negotiations centered on funding the government by its October 1st deadline were the final opportunity to derail the act before it became a “permanent feature of the American economy.” Although Senator Cruz called for a government shutdown if the ACA was not defunded, he was only able to attract 12 Republican Senators to sign a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stating that they would actually vote against an appropriations bill. It should be noted that a larger group of 66 House Republicans (28% of the 234 Republican Members of the House) sent a similar letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).

Despite the ongoing political pressure, the law is unlikely to be overturned as long as Mr. Obama is the President. For its part, the administration and its allies are engaged in efforts to roll out the ACA and to enroll as many people as possible in plans in the state marketplaces. Enroll America, a 501(C)(3) organization launched by national health, insurance and pharmaceutical groups, has created a new campaign to convince people to join the insurance marketplaces after enrollment begins on October 1st.

As implementation nears, the Health Resources Service Administration (HRSA) yesterday released policy clarifications regarding several issues related to the interaction of the Ryan White Program with the ACA, notably on payer of last resort rules, use of Ryan White Program funds for premiums and cost-sharing for Medicaid and private insurance in the market place, and eligibility for private insurance and post-implementation issues. HRSA will be offering a technical assistance webinar regarding the new policy guidance, “ Preparing for 2014: Overview of Ryan White Program Policy Updates & Guidance” on August 14th at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time. Additional information can be found on HRSA’s website about the interaction between the Ryan White Program and ACA, which is steadily gaining content and worth reviewing.

No matter what happens over the summer, the implementation is around the corner and will likely be a lot of work for the HIV community. We must ensure that people with HIV, including those not yet diagnosed, are able to easily access and enroll in Medicaid or private insurance in the new marketplace, that the services provided cover all needed drugs and medical visits, that the Ryan White Program helps to complete coverage for premium and cost-sharing payments, and that the Ryan White Program continues its important function in helping people to actually use their coverage including adherence services that help people to reach an undetectable viral load. This is a tall task and likely to remain the work of the HIV community for many years. So don’t forget to meet with your Members of Congress !

The HRSA policy clarifications can be found here:

13-06 Clarifications Regarding Use of Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Funds for Premium and Cost-Sharing Assistance for Medicaid .

13-05 Clarifications Regarding Use of Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Funds for Premium and Cost-Sharing Assistance for Private Health Insurance .

13-04 Clarifications Regarding Clients Eligible for Private Health Insurance and Coverage of Services by Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program .

13-03 Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Client Eligibility Determinations: Considerations Post-Implementation of the Affordable Care Act .

House Republican Leaders Planning to Double Cuts to SNAP

Over the August recess, the House Republican leadership plans to draft a bill to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) by $40 billion over 10 years. This decision comes in the wake of the House’s failure in June to pass their version of the Farm Bill, which guides and authorizes funding for most federal farm, food and nutrition policies. Originally, the House proposed $20 billion in cuts over 10 years to SNAP. The failure to pass a comprehensive Farm Bill in June caused the House leadership to split nutrition elements and pass an agriculture-only bill in early July; as predicted, this has put SNAP in an extremely vulnerable position. AIDS United considers this to be an appalling strike upon people who have been hit hardest by the recession, including people with HIV and we continue to work in coalition with organizations like the Food Research and Action Center to advocate against such detrimental cuts.

AIDS United at the 2013 U.S. Conference on AIDS

This year, AIDS United will be in full force at the 2013 U.S. Conference on AIDS (USCA) in New Orleans September 8-11! USCA brings together thousands of people from all fronts of the HIV/AIDS epidemic—from case managers and physicians, to public health workers and advocates, people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) and policy-makers—to build national support networks, exchange the latest information and learn cutting-edge tools to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS. Here are the dates and times of AIDS United staff sessions:

  • Sunday, September 8, 2013, from 10:30 a.m. – 12 noon: HIV Criminalization: Ending Stigma in the U.S. and Around the World with Bill McColl, Director of Political Affairs
  • Sunday, September 8, 2013, from 2:30 – 5:30 p.m.: Access to Care in the South with Maura Riordan, Vice President of Access and Innovation, and Monique Tula, Director of Access
  • Monday, September 9, 2013, from 8:30 – 11:30 a.m.: AIDS United Partner Seminar: Prevention Innovation in the South – Efforts to Expanding Syringe Access and Naloxone for HIV, Hepatitis C and Drug Overdose Prevention with Bill McColl
  • Tuesday, September 10, 2013, from 8:30 – 11:30 a.m.: Ending the HIV Epidemic: Reimagining the Ryan White Program and the National HIV Funding Landscape to Reach Zero with Bill McColl
  • Tuesday, September 10, 2013, from 8:30 – 11:30 a.m.: HIV Funding in the World of Sequestration with Ronald Johnson, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, and Donna Crews, Director of Government Affairs
  • Wednesday, September 11, 2013, from 8:30 – 11:30 a.m.: HIV Intervention and Prevention with Black Men who have Sex with Men: A Research and Policy Dialogue with Charles Stephens
Visit the USCA website to learn more.

Upcoming Awareness Days

September is just around the corner, which meansNational HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day (September 18) and National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (September 27) are almost here. Learn more about these awareness days and others by clicking here.

Department of Homeland Security Releases New Guidelines About Green Card Applications for Same-Sex Couples

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, the Department of Homeland Security released new guidelines last week to allow same-sex couples the same immigration rights as opposite-sex couples. The new guidelines clarify that all married couples may apply for green cards right away including same-sex couples, and for those couples who applied but were denied because of DOMA, the government will re-open their applications without new fees.

Click here to learn more and read the new guidelines.

4th Annual Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice, August 5-11

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is teaming up with the California Latinas for Reproductive Justice (CLRJ) and the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) to host the 4th annual Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice, August 5-11. The focus this year is on immigration reform and reproductive justice. Under the immigration bill that just passed the Senate, many would be forced to wait 15 years or longer before seeing a doctor, even while paying taxes and working the whole time!

#15years is Too Long to Wait: Health and Justice for Immigrant Women Now!

Here are some ways you can get involved as an organization!

  • Sponsor the Week of Action: Do you support immigration reform that includes access to health care for immigrant women and families on the roadmap to citizenship? Please join NLIRH again and add your organization to the growing list of co-sponsors.
  • Share our petition: NLIRH launched a new petition to urge lawmakers to listen to immigrant women and families, and advance reform that allows aspiring citizens the opportunity to fully contribute to our families, communities, and economy. Please sign, share on social media, and encourage others to join!
  • Host an Event: Host a town hall, in-district meetings with policymakers, film screening or other event. For more information, contact karina@latinainstitute.org or fill out this form.
  • Support us using Social Media: Follow NLIRH on Twitter @NLIRH & follow the Week of Action conversation at #WOA13, #15years, and #15años. “Like” NLIRH on Facebook and share Week of Action content with your followers (more details forthcoming).
  • Spread the Word: Tell your colleagues, activists, and constituents about the Week of Action. Write a newsletter article or blog about women’s health and rights in immigration reform (resourceshereand here), and encourage them to sign the petition.

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!

Even now, more than 30 years after the beginning of the HIV epidemic, 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 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.

This will be our last Policy Update until September 13. Enjoy the August recess, and don’t forget to meet with your Members of Congress !

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