Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Mike Weir June 10, 2019

Hill Happenings

FY2020 Appropriations 

House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD-5) reiterated his commitment to passing all twelve Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 spending bills by the end of June via multiple minibus packages. The first package will combine Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) with Defense, State-Foreign Ops, Energy-Water, and the Legislative Branch. A vote on the package is expected on June 12.

Included in the package is the House Appropriations draft FY2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) bill. The bill includes an increase of $490 million for domestic HIV programs, including funding to begin implementing the Administration’s Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America (ETE) initiative. 

NASTAD signed onto a letter thanking House appropriators for increasing funding for HIV research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the LHHS Appropriations bill.

Administration Activities

Fetal Tissue Research Ban

The Trump Administration has ended funding of medical research by government scientists using fetal tissue. The decision was made after a six-month audit of more than $100 million in federally funded research that used the material. The ban will severely complicate, and in some cases cease, prospective and promising research into new treatments and a cure for HIV. The University of California, San Francisco had an exciting HIV research contract canceled, “end[ing] a 30-year partnership with the NIH to use specially designed models that could be developed only through the use of fetal tissue to find a cure for HIV.”

1557 Waiver

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) last week issued a proposed rule revising the agency’s interpretation of non-discrimination provisions in Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). If finalized in its current form, the proposed rule would significantly weaken protections against discrimination in health programs based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and sex stereotyping. Section 1557 prohibits health programs—including health insurance Marketplaces, Marketplace plans, and programs administered or funded by federal agencies—from denying benefits or otherwise discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex. 

Although the proposed rule retains the general prohibition against discrimination on these grounds, it would eliminate many of the current regulation’s more specific prohibitions—for example, the proposed rule seeks to remove the current definition of discrimination “on the basis of sex,” which would eliminate explicit protections against discrimination based on a person’s gender identity and potentially allow health programs and insurance plans to deny access to care or benefits to transgender individuals. The proposed rule would also weaken protections for individuals with limited English proficiency, eliminate the requirement that health programs provide information to the public about non-discrimination protections, weaken protections against discriminatory benefit designs in health plans that discourage enrollment by people living with HIV and other chronic conditions, and reduce access to grievance procedures for handling complaints about alleged violations of Section 1557. NASTAD will submit comments on the proposed rule once it has been published in the Federal Register. Comments are due 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.

The National Health Law Program will host a webinar, “Trump's Proposed Rollback of the ACA's Nondiscrimination Protections,” on June 12, 2019, 3:00 - 4:30 PM (EDT) to walk through the proposed changes, and provide guidance for what advocates can do to push back. Register for the webinar here

HIV Long-Term Survivors Day

June 5 was HIV Long-Term Survivors Day, an observance to celebrate and honor long-term survivors of the epidemic and raises awareness of their needs, issues, and journeys.

Resources

Episode 2 of Defining Equity Podcast Available

The second episode of NASTAD’s Defining Equity podcast is now available for download. Defining Equity is a monthly podcast series that tackles the numerous health equity issues facing underserved communities highlighting public health professionals using strategies to empower and center communities living at the margins. 

MMWR: Scaling Up Testing for Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection Among Contacts of Index Patients — 20 Countries, 2016–2018

Disparities in HIV Viral Suppression Among Adolescents and Young Adults by Perinatal Infection

Upcoming Meetings

Adherence 2019

Adherence 2019 will take place June 17-19, 2019, in Miami. This annual series of conferences features HIV treatment and biomedical prevention adherence research, and current behavioral and clinical perspectives in practicum, within the context of optimizing the continuum of HIV care and prevention. Adherence 2019 will also include an implementation science track focused on closing gaps between evidence and routine practice for health in real-world settings. Registration is currently open

2019 National Sexual Health Conference 

The 2019 National Sexual Health Conference will take place July 10-12 in Chicago, IL. The conference aims to create opportunities to share information, efforts, and best practices around sexual health across the lifespan by bridging the varied disciplines of education, advocacy, and clinical care, among others. Registration is currently open.

Fast-Track Cities 2019

Fast-Track Cities 2019 will take place September 8-11, 2019, in London. This will be the first international conference of more than 270 cities and municipalities, including from the United States, that are accelerating their responses to HIV, tuberculosis, and viral hepatitis. The conference’s aim is to highlight successes achieved across the Fast-Track Cities network, address cross-cutting challenges faced by local stakeholders, and share best practices in accelerating urban AIDS responses, inclusive of co-infectious diseases and comorbid conditions. Registration is currently open.

Job Opportunities 

Epidemiologist II– Massachusetts 

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is hiring an Epidemiologist II within their Office of Health Care Planning of the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences. This posting is open until filled. 

Surveillance Director– West Virginia 

The West Virginia Department of Health & Human Services is hiring a Surveillance Director for the Division of STD and HIV within the Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services. This posting is open until July 7. 

Communicable Disease Prevention Program Manager– Wyoming

The Wyoming Department of Health is hiring a Communicable Disease Prevention Program Manager within their Communicable Disease Unit. This posting is open until filled. 

Director, Ryan White– Tennessee

The Tennessee Department of Health is hiring for a Director within their Ryan White Part B Program. This posting is open until filled. 

News Bulletin

Barbershop That Turned Away HIV-Positive Man Must Pay $75,000

“A barbershop in Los Angeles must pay $75,000, plus court costs and legal fees, to a man denied service because he is HIV-positive. Briteramos, represented by Lambda, filed suit against Kings of Kuts and Milton last year in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleging that the shop had violated the Americans With Disabilities Act and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act by discriminating against him.”

The intersection of opioids and HIV

“While transmission of HIV due to the injection of drugs is nothing new, it’s seeing a resurgence because of the opioid epidemic, pushing HIV infections from cities to rural America. Six percent of new HIV diagnoses in the United States in 2017 stem from injected drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a result, advocacy groups and local health departments focusing on opioid use are cooperating groups representing the LGBTQ population, which is disproportionately affected by HIV.”