How Health Departments Are Accelerating the End of HIV

By Murray Penner December 1, 2016

In recognition of World AIDS Day and of the important work of health department HIV and viral hepatitis programs, NASTAD is pleased to release the first in a series of success stories highlighting local programs that address individual, community, and systems level needs and are advancing progress towards this year’s Ready to End the HIV and Viral Hepatitis Epidemics Chair’s Challenge. The Chair’s Challenge calls on U.S. health departments to accelerate the end of HIV and viral hepatitis in the U.S. As part of the challenge, we are working with health departments to determine the minimum program and policy building blocks that must be in place to support impactful HIV and hepatitis prevention and care programs, and assess where health departments land on the continuum of these minimum requirements. We also are developing a “report card” for health departments on core health department competencies. And we are prioritizing NASTAD’s technical assistance, including state-level policy activities, to achieve the greatest impact in modernizing health department programs and policies. Finally, we are working in coalition with other organizations and coalitions, including the Federal AIDS Policy Partnership, Act Now: End AIDS, and Fast Track Cities to ensure that health department and community efforts are coordinated, both domestically and globally.
The first three profiles feature:
  1. Arizona Department of Health Services’s Social Media Initiative: "It’s Only Dangerous When You Don’t Know It’s There:" The campaign uses comical depictions of everyday life gone wrong, because the person encountered an unknown hazard. Ads end with the tagline, “Awareness is the Answer.” Using a combination of highly targeted digital and traditional ad placement, custom Snapchat filters, and volunteers posting on Facebook, visitors were directed to for comprehensive testing, prevention and care information and search functions.
  2. Virginia Department of Health’s Pharmacy-based HIV Testing Initiative: Retail pharmacy-based HIV testing is a program designed to expand access to HIV testing in areas of limited resources or high stigma. Pharmacies are known to offer a variety of products for daily use, and some have recently expanded to provide select point of-care health screening tests. This program helps normalize the act of seeking an HIV test by offering it in a familiar environment alongside non-stigmatized screening tests.
  3. Wisconsin Department of Health Services’s program to Increase Leadership Diversity in the HIV Workforce: Rates of HIV are unacceptably high and increasing among young Black gay and bisexual men and transgender women. Increasing workforce diversity, particularly at the leadership level, is crucial to addressing the disparate impact of the epidemic on these populations. The Wisconsin Health Leaders Fellowship is a one year leadership development program designed to increase the number of leadership positions held by people of color, particularly men who have sex with men (MSM) of color, in organizations providing HIV services in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Fellows come from five local agencies which have committed to the program and to supporting staff to participate as fellows. The fellowship is coordinated and supported by the Wisconsin AIDS/HIV Program at the Wisconsin Division of Public Health.
These initiatives demonstrate innovation, vision, and commitment to strengthening programs to better meet the needs of people living with and at risk for HIV and hepatitis infection. NASTAD will continue to collect and feature model programs and provide peer-based technical assistance to support local adaptations of these innovative and successful programs.
Please be on the look for another, forthcoming component of the Chair’s Challenge: In the next few weeks, NASTAD will release an online assessment of health department HIV program core competencies in order to better measure progress towards achieving the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and to inform action steps jurisdictions can take to accelerate progress towards ending the HIV and hepatitis epidemics. 
Please contact Jillian Casey if you have any questions or if you’d like more information on how to contribute a success story from your jurisdiction.