Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Mike Weir February 22, 2021

Hill Happenings 

COVID-19 Relief Actions 

Congressional Democrats are working in lockstep with the Biden Administration to quickly pass the President’s proposed $1.9 trillion pandemic relief legislative package. After early negotiations failed to offer a clear, bipartisan path forward, Democrats are leveraging the budget reconciliation process to avoid the Senate filibuster and pass the legislative package with a simple majority, which Democrats command using Vice President Harris’ tie-breaking vote.  

NASTAD joined a coalition of over 310 organizations calling on Congress to include a significant, long-term investment in public health infrastructure and workforce in the next COVID-19 relief bill. The coalition of health advocates recommends $4.5 billion in long-term, additional annual funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state, local, tribal and territorial core public health infrastructure to modernize the nation’s public health system, rebuild the workforce, and promote healthier communities.  

NASTAD will continue to monitor relief negotiations in the 117th Congress and the appropriations process under a Biden Administration to advocate for the highest funding levels on behalf of HIV and hepatitis programs.  

Administrative Activity 

EHE Quarterly Stakeholder Webinar Presentation & Recording 

The HHS’ Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy (OIDP) held its quarterly EHE stakeholder webinar on January 27. For more details, please access the presentation slides and recording  from this session. 

Administration Announces Immediate COVID-19 Spending 

The White House announced a series of new actions to expand COVID-19 testing, improve the availability of tests, and better prepare for the threat of variants. The effort is described as a "pilot," and will provide $1.6 billion including: 

  • $650 million to increase access to testing in non-medical settings, such as K-8 schools and homeless shelters; 

  • $815 million to support domestic manufacturing of supplies for COVID-19 testing; and  

  • $200 million for the CDC to increase its capacity to sequence the genomes of virus samples from 7,000 samples per week to 25,000. 

President Biden Announces CMS Administrator Nominee  

On February 19, the Biden Administration announced the long-awaited nominee for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. Brooks-LaSure is currently Managing Director at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLC, and is a former policy official who played a key role in guiding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through passage and implementation. As deputy director for policy at the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight within the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and earlier at the Department of Health & Human Services as director of coverage policy, she led the agency’s implementation of ACA coverage and insurance reform policy provisions.  

NASTAD Joins Coalition Calling on FDA to Lift Fetal Tissue Research Ban 

NASTAD joined a coalition of scientific, medical, and patient advocacy organizations and signed onto a letter urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to swiftly rescind the human fetal tissue (HFT) research restrictions and policy changes that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) made in 2019. These changes have halted all intramural HFT research and obstructed new extramural research involving HFT. Scientists and ethicists have repeatedly reviewed the use of HFT in research and have consistently concluded that HFT is an essential resource for biomedical research. HFT has led to many scientific and medical advances that have saved millions of lives. It remains critical for the development of new treatments for a wide range of serious diseases, including COVID19.  

CDC Announces Funding Opportunity to Deliver HIV Prevention Messages to Priority Populations 

The CDC has issued a notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) that seeks to engage strategic partners from across a variety of sectors to support the dissemination of messages and resources from the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign to the populations and communities most impacted by HIV. The Partnering and Communicating Together funding opportunity is part of CDC’s efforts to increase HIV awareness and promote HIV prevention and testing under the Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) initiative. This program will help organizations expand the reach and dissemination of campaign resources using a variety of vehicles, including publications, meetings, conferences, digital and social media, and other mechanisms. Recipients will prioritize health communication and mobilization efforts among populations highly impacted by HIV and in the jurisdictions where HIV is most prevalent, prioritizing the 57 jurisdictions in Phase I of the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative. 

Resources 

Webinar: Expanding Harm Reduction Access using Online and Mail-Based Services 

Date & Time: Wednesday, February 24 | 3:00 – 4:15 pm ET 

Please join NASTAD Drug User Health for a webinar with Next Distro on Wednesday, February 24, 3:00 - 4:15 PM ET. The popularity of distributing harm reduction materials including safer use supplies by mail has grown significantly since COVID-19. Join NASTAD and NEXT Distro for a discussion about values, opportunities, and challenges related to mail-based harm reduction. Members of the NEXT Distro team will provide an overview of program operations, opportunities to collaborate, and discuss how to expand mail-based harm reduction access in local communities. Additionally, Corey Davis from the Network for Public Health Law will be available to provide an overview of the legality of mail-based syringe and naloxone access. 

The Southern Syringe Services Program (SSP) Institute 

Date & Time: March 3-4 | 12:00 – 4:30 PM ET 

NASTAD invites you to attend a virtual two-day, regional gathering on harm reduction, syringe services programs, and drug user health. The Southern Syringe Services Programs (SSP) and Drug User Health Institute will be held virtually via Zoom and occur on the afternoons of March 3-4, 2021 from 12:00 - 4:30 PM ET.  This convening will bring together health department staff, community-based groups, content experts, national stakeholders, and state and local service providers who work on issues related to the drug use/overdose crisis and reducing associated harms in their respective jurisdictions and communities. Health department staff, SSPs/harm reduction programs, and other community-based organizations and local service providers in southern states are encouraged to attend.   

Registration for AIDSWatch 2021 is Now Open 

Registration is now open for AIDSWatch. AIDSWatch, to be held March 22-24, 2021, will bring together HIV advocates from across the country – virtually – to speak truth to power to members of the 117th Congress and the new Biden-Harris administration. We will gather as a community to sustain our advocacy around ending the HIV epidemic in the United States, even amid more than a year of navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Presented by AIDS United, the US PLHIV Caucus, and the Treatment Access Expansion Project, AIDSWatch is the largest, national, constituent-based HIV advocacy event. While typically held in person in Washington, D.C., AIDSWatch continues to be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

MMWR: Care Outcomes Among Black or African American Persons with Diagnosed HIV in Rural, Urban, and Metropolitan Statistical Areas — 42 U.S. Jurisdictions, 2018 

Job Postings 

Communicable Disease Epidemiologist – Cheyenne, Wyoming 

This position will serve as the Communicable Disease AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) Coordinator, Wyoming TB Controller, and Disease Intervention Specialist (DIS) for the Communicable Disease (CD) Treatment Program.  Assist in outbreak response to ensure the safety of Wyoming residents; by interviewing cases for exposure information, updating news outlets on the progress of outbreak control, analyzing exposure data utilizing epidemiological and statistical methods. 

Department of State Health Services, Program Informatics and Evaluation Group – Austin, TX 

  • Program Specialist V - performs advanced (senior-level) consultative services for the Program Informatics and Evaluation Group within the integrated HIV/STD/TB Surveillance and Prevention unit of DSHS 

  • Research Specialist V - conducts highly advanced (senior-level) research and analysis of program evaluation and epidemiologic data associated with HIV, particularly routine testing for HIV in clinical settings 

  • Program Specialist IV - performs highly complex and advanced technical activities related to HIV, STD, and Tuberculosis data management and processing of HIV, STD, and TB laboratory reports 

  • Epidemiologist III - designs and implements statistical analyses appropriate for epidemiologic and programmatic data with a focus on HIV prevention programming. 

Director of Operations, Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences – Boston, MA 

The Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences (BIDLS) at the Department of Public Health (DPH) is seeking an experienced leader who is eager to join a mission-driven and fast-paced team in effectively and efficiently supporting the day-to-day operational needs of BIDLS.  The selected candidate will provide direct and indirect supervision to a total of 55 staff, including 4 Managers, and will oversee an annual budget in excess of $500M. To be successful, the incumbent of this position must be detail-oriented and also must understand the complexities of systems change and implementation in government systems, with the ability to ensure alignment with the Bureau’s and Department’s mission, goals, and objectives. 

Open Positions – New York State 

The New York State Department of Health, in partnership with Health Research, Inc, has various job openings, including some within the AIDS Institute. Please visit this link to learn about their current opportunities.  

News Bulletin 

How activists pushed to include people with HIV in COVID-19 vaccine trials 

“Still, people with HIV were initially excluded from COVID-19 vaccine trials -- as well as people undergoing cancer treatment, or anyone else with a compromised immune system. 

"People with HIV were kind of thrown in the same pot," said Dr. Sharon Riddler, professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "Many people have very well-controlled HIV. [Many people] really do have fine immune responses and would potentially be able to get this vaccine safely.”