Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Julio Contreras May 17, 2021

Hill Happenings

Senate Advances Key Healthcare Nominations

On May 11, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Andrea Palm (61-37) to serve as Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Palm will serve as second in command to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and play a key role in the development and implementation of the Department’s regulatory and policy agenda. Prior to joining HHS, Palm led the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Additionally, Senate Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) advanced the nomination of Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to be Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Leader Schumer discharged the nomination to the Senate floor after the nomination stalled in the Senate Finance Committee after the committee vote ended in a tie. Although Brooks-LaSure is expected to achieve Senate confirmation, Republicans are rallying opposition to the nomination after the Biden Administration withdrew approval for a 10-year Texas Medicaid program that was extended in the final days of the Trump Administration.

Administrative Activity

Biden Administration to Invest $7 Billion from American Rescue Plan to Hire and Train Public Health Workers in Response to COVID-19

On May 13, the Biden Administration announced a $7.4 billion investment, authorized by the American Rescue Plan, to expand the public health workforce in order to  alleviate the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic on health departments and improve the nation’s public health infrastructure to facilitate pandemic preparedness.

State and local health departments will receive $4.4 billion to increase staff capacity to support COVID-19 response efforts in both the short and the long term. Of the funding, $1.13 billion will be allocated over five years to increase state and local capacity to conduct case investigation and contract tracing with a focus on strengthening the disease intervention specialist (DIS) workforce, adding a total of about 9,000 to 10,000 new DIS. In addition to the workforce funding, $3 billion will be used to create a new program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that will provide under resourced health departments the ability to hire staff with a focus on staff representing communities they serve. CDC will be working with stakeholders to develop this program. NASTAD applauds the Biden Administration on this investment in the public health workforce, particularly DIS. We will continue to provide updates as they are available.

Biden Administration Announces Release of Executive Budget in Full

On May 13, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that the fiscal year 2022 Executive Budget proposal in full will be released on May 27. The Administration released a “skinny” budget in April, providing topline funding levels for various agencies and detailing a framework for the Administration’s policy priorities. The Executive budget in full will provide more detailed funding proposals for federal agencies and their various departments and programs, including the Division of Viral Hepatitis, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, and the Infectious Diseases and Opioid Epidemic program at the CDC National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), and Tuberculosis Prevention.

Biden Administration Appoints New HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs

On May 10, the Biden Administration announced that Jessica Marcella has been appointed as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs. As head of the Office of Population Affairs (OPA), Marcella will oversee the administration of the Title X family planning program, the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, and other reproductive and adolescent health initiatives, including policy on abortion, contraception, and STIs. Marcella will be tasked with rebuilding the Title X program following the Biden Administration’s decision to issues new rulemaking in order to reverse harmful changes implemented by the Trump Administration.

NASTAD Signs Onto Comments Supporting Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Data Collection

NASTAD joined a coalition of 64 health advocates and signed onto comments addressing the need to collect sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data in the CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), including intersex status measures. If implemented by all states, the SOGI module would provide critical and more accurate information on LGBTQ peoples’ health needs; inform programs and tailored interventions to reduce LGBTQ health disparities and promote health equity; and support planning, developing, monitoring, evaluating, and reporting of current and new preventative and treatment programs. Additionally, SOGI data would allow advocates, researchers, policymakers, and service providers who require comprehensive and accurate information on LGBTQI communities to generate data-driven policies to address existing health disparities.


NASTAD Webinar: Another Door Opens: Leveraging untapped opportunities for viral hepatitis programs in a post-pandemic world 

Date: Wednesday, May 19 from 1:00 – 2:00 pm ET

Registration: Click here to register.

Join NASTAD and CDC Division of Viral Hepatitis for a virtual discussion among viral hepatitis program stakeholders to assess COVID-19’s impact on viral hepatitis program delivery and elimination efforts, as well as challenges and opportunities for advancing hepatitis elimination efforts. The webinar will also feature a presentation about COVID-19’s impact on viral hepatitis prevention and control activities from NASTAD and the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, as well as presentations from Tennessee’s Ending the Syndemic program and UT Health – San Antonio as they have implemented novel approaches to expanding testing, treatment, and/or prevention access and delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

10th Annual National Hispanic Hepatitis Awareness Day (NHHAD)

National Hispanic Hepatitis Awareness Day (NHHAD), observed yearly on May 15, is a national community mobilization and social messaging campaign that unites the Hispanic/Latinx community and their partners in efforts to provide education and raise viral hepatitis awareness—including promotion of screening, prevention, care, and the availability of effective therapies for people living with hepatitis B and curative therapies for people living with hepatitis C. This year’s theme is, “Viral Hepatitis: Let’s Solve It.”

On Tuesday, May 18 from 2:00 to 3:00 pm ET, the Latino Commission on AIDS and HepVu will co-host a webinar titled “The Impact of Hepatitis C in the United States: Focus on its Impact on the Hispanic/Latinx Community” featuring Heather Bradley, Assistant Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the Georgia State University School of Public Health. The webinar will provide insight on hepatitis C in the Hispanic/Latinx community, as well as provide an overview of HepVu and how to navigate the website. You can register for the webinar here. Additionally, click here to read a conversation between NASTAD and Luis Mares, LMSW, Director of Community Mobilization programs at the Latino Commission on AIDS, on the significance of NHHAD.

CDC Blog: STD Clinics Contribute to Ending the HIV Epidemic in the United States

STD clinics play a key role in HIV diagnosis, prevention, care, and treatment.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes this role and in August 2020 awarded $3 million to seven jurisdictions to scale up HIV services in eight STD clinics through funding announcement PS20-2010: Integrated HIV Programs for Health Departments to Support Ending the HIV Epidemic in the United States (EHE) CDC will support these STD clinics as they expand HIV services, including assistance in monitoring and evaluating clinic and patient outcomes. Measuring the impact of EHE STD clinic efforts will help to identify best practices to end the HIV epidemic and reduce the rates of STIs in the US.

CDC Announces New National HIV Testing Day Theme

National HIV Testing Day (NHTD), observed annually on June 27, is an important opportunity to emphasize and encourage HIV testing. On May 3, CDC announced this year’s new NHTD theme: My Test, My Way. The updated theme contends with the challenges that communities, public health departments, and healthcare facilities face during the COVID-19 pandemic by emphasizing that there are different ways and places to get tested for HIV, including at home with a self-test.

Alabama Youth Health Protection Act Signed into Law 

On April 27, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed the Alabama Youth Health Protection Act into law. The new law requires that schools teaching sexual education must have curricula that contain age-appropriate, medically accurate, and culturally appropriate material, including information on sexually-transmitted infections and HIV, safe sex practices, available options for an unwanted pregnancy, and teen parenting resources. Representative Laura Hall (D-Huntsville), who introduced the legislation, pointed to the new law as a big step toward ensuring all students learning about sexual education are taught in a manner that is not inherently discriminatory toward a person’s gender identity or gender expression.

MMWR: Trends in Diagnosis of HIV Infection, Linkage to Medical Care, and Viral Suppression Among Men Who Have Sex with Men, by Race/Ethnicity and Age — 33 Jurisdictions, United States, 2014–2018

Job Postings

Director I, HIV/STD Prevention and Care – Austin, Texas

Works under the general direction of the Director of the TB/HIV/STD Section (THSS) of the Department of State Health Services (DSHS). Performs advanced (senior-level) managerial work leading the day-to-day operations of the HIV/STD Prevention and Care Unit. The Director I would lead the day-to-day operations of an array of programmatic services that maintain and facilitate programs of the Unit. These programs include statewide programs for HIV clinical and social services; the provision of medications for the treatment of HIV and other STDs; and HIV, STD and viral hepatitis prevention.

NASTAD Senior Director, Public Health Systems – Remote/Washington, DC

The Senior Director, Public Health Systems, provides leadership and direction to NASTAD’s health care access (HCA) and health systems integration (HSI) efforts. This position leads the HCA and HSI teams providing direct supervision to these teams’ directors and the overarching work of the teams regarding programmatic, technical assistance, and capacity building activities.

NASTAD Drug User Health Team – Remote/Washington, DC

  • The Associate, Drug User Health will play a vital role in project coordination to streamline and enhance the team’s expanding drug user health portfolio. Core activities will entail administrative and logistical support to NASTAD’s Drug User Health team in the delivery of technical assistance (TA) and training to health department and community-based officials. This position works closely with the team to facilitate effective coordination and communication across multifaceted project activities and deliverables.
  • The Manager, Drug User Health will support the advancement of NASTAD’s efforts to assist health departments and community-based drug user health programs by providing technical assistance (TA) and training on effective drug user health strategies and connecting people who use drugs to HIV and hepatitis prevention and treatment programs. Core activities will include: leading collaborations and organizational partnerships to expand access to clinical care for people who use drugs; supporting the creation and release of training curricula and guidance documents; and providing tailored TA to support health department drug user health and harm reduction programs, community SSPs, and HIV and hepatitis care and treatment programs.

Public Health Administrator, HIV Prevention Engagement & Outreach Coordinator – Indianapolis, Indiana

The Public Health Administrator coordinates numerous HIV prevention programs with both high-risk and HIV positive consumers. Programming is targeted to CDC-identified priority populations including but not limited to: Communities of Color, Men who have Sex with Men (MSM), Transgender; People who Inject Drugs (PWID). This position works with prevention team managers and coordinators on the planning, development and implementation programs and projects. This position assures all initiatives are compliant with funders guidance.

Statewide Deputy Medical Director, HIV/STD/Vi ral Hepatitis -- Nashville, Tennessee

Primary responsibilities include leadership and oversight of programs related to HIV prevention and treatment in Tennessee. This position will supervise and provide mentorship to the directors of HIV Prevention and Surveillance and the Ryan White Part B program. Utilize data to guide program and policy development and will provide clinical and programmatic oversight for the implementation of all related prevention and treatment activities. Requires management and leadership skills.

COVID-19 Project Manager – Richmond, Virginia

The Virginia Department of Health is seeking a COVID-19 Project Manager in the Office of Epidemiology. This position works with various stakeholders to organize resources, communicate on projects, and provide reports to various levels of leadership. The COVID-19 Project Manager is primarily responsible for implementing project management processes, organizing timelines, communicating updates, escalating issues that are identified, and providing various reports that provide updates regarding the project’s status.

Assistant Commissioner - Health Department – Baltimore, Maryland

The Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) is seeking an Assistant Commissioner to lead the Bureau of Communicable Disease and Outbreak Control. This senior management position will lead a talented team responsible for communicable disease investigation, outbreak control and emergency preparedness programming. The incumbent will also be responsible for developing and implementing agency wide policies related to health department readiness to respond to public health emergencies. The incumbent will report directly to the Deputy Commissioner for BCHD’s Division of Population Health & Disease Prevention.   

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.

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

Strides Against HIV/AIDS Falter, Especially in the South, as Nation Battles Covid

“Facing a yearlong siege from the coronavirus, the defenses in another, older war are faltering. For the last two decades, HIV/AIDS has been held at bay by potent antiviral drugs, aggressive testing and inventive public education campaigns. But the COVID-19 pandemic has caused profound disruptions in almost every aspect of that battle, grounding outreach teams, sharply curtailing testing and diverting critical staff away from laboratories and medical centers. The exact impact of one pandemic on the other is still coming into focus, but preliminary evidence is disturbing experts who have celebrated the enormous strides in HIV treatment. While the shift in priorities is nationwide, delays in testing and treatment carry particularly grievous risks in Southern states, now the epicenter of the nation’s HIV crisis.”

HHS Will Enforce Section 1557 To Protect LGBTQ People From Discrimination

“On May 10, 2021, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it will interpret Section 1557 and Title IX, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity… OCR also issued a notice of this new interpretation and its intent to enforce Section 1557 through its complaints and investigations process. Future action, including new rulemaking, is expected. But, in the meantime, OCR makes clear that it will accept, investigate, and resolve complaints of health care discrimination from LGBTQ people under Section 1557.”

Almost 20 advocacy groups team up to pressure Congress to pass health care bill for immigrants

“Nearly 20 advocacy, immigration rights and health care groups are teaming up to pressure Congress to pass a health care bill reintroduced Wednesday that would extend access to immigrants. The organizations, including the National Immigration Law Center, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, rallied behind the HEAL for Immigrant Families Act that would grant lawful immigrants eligibility to health care programs. Reps Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) reintroduced the legislation on Wednesday after it was first proposed in the House in 2015 and the Senate last year.”

House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill

“A group of 10 moderate House Democrats is signaling concerns with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) signature legislation to lower prescription drug prices, raising further doubts about the legislation’s path forward. Their letter to Pelosi calls for a drug pricing measure to be bipartisan and to ‘preserve our invaluable innovation ecosystem,’ pointing to concerns that a bill could hurt drug companies’ ability to develop new drugs.”