Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Mike Weir August 5, 2019

Hill Happenings

Budget Caps Deal Passed

Last week, the Senate passed the two-year, $2.7 trillion budget agreement that ends looming sequestration cuts and prevents the nation from defaulting on its debt for the next two years by a vote of 67-28. The House also passed the bill on July 25th on a 284-149 vote, leaving it to President Donald Trump to officially sign the bill into law.

Now that the budget caps bill has been passed, the Senate will begin work on its FY2020 appropriations bills and Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) has stated that he may package the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, Defense, and Energy-Water (LHHS) Subcommittees’ spending bills together in September when lawmakers return from break.

Democratic Congressional Leadership Seeks Answers on Refusal of Care Rule

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ-6), House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA-3), House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD-7), and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar today asking for documentation regarding the Trump Administration’s refusal of care rule, which expands the types of health care providers that can refuse to provide care to patients based on any personal belief as well as the type of care they can deny. The leadership expressed concern with how the HHS Office for Civil Rights is addressing discrimination against patients and how it is will work to ensure that patients have access to medical services in the event they are refused care based on a provider’s personal belief.

Administration Activities

HRSA Administrator Transitions to HHS Office of the Secretary

George Sigounas, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) departed the agency after two-years of serving as its leader. Sigounas will transition to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Secretary where he will serve as an adviser to Secretary Alex Azar on rural health, and as deputy director of the health reform office. Thomas Engels will take over as acting head of HRSA.

CDC Awards More than $70 Million in Antibiotic Resistance Grants

As part of their Antibiotic Resistance Initiative, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded $71 million across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and several local health departments. The awards are part of CDC's urgent investment in a national antibiotic resistance strategy.


The Southern HIV/AIDS Strategy Initiative recently published a study in AIDS and Behavior entitled “The Relationship of HIV-related Stigma and Health Care Outcomes in the US Deep South.”

The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson announced results from a Phase 1/2a study evaluating a preventive vaccine regimen against HIV-1 infection last week.

MMWR - Injection Practices and Sexual Behaviors Among Persons with Diagnosed HIV Infection Who Inject Drugs — United States, 2015–2017; Threefold Increases in Population HIV Viral Load Suppression Among Men and Young Adults — Bukoba Municipal Council, Tanzania, 2014–2017

Job Opportunities

CLS Disease Intervention Specialist – Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Health has two vacant Disease Intervention Specialists HIV Care Link Services positions in the Partner and Care Link Services Unit. These positions will primarily work with people whose HIV medical status is unknown or who are out of care to assist them in re-engaging in care. The vacancy will be open until midnight on Friday, August 16.

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.

Upcoming Conferences

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.

News Bulletin

Senate:  You Can End HIV in America – It’s on You

“Envision a future where there is not one new case of HIV in America. This can become our reality as early as 2030—should our lawmakers choose to act.

Today, nearly 40,000 Americans are diagnosed with HIV each year, and each of them faces living with the trauma of a chronic health condition. Yet, they can all live a life with few interruptions if they have access to today's groundbreaking medical advancements. Hospitals are no longer graveyards of gay men whose lives were tragically extinguished far too soon, but the height of the AIDS epidemic remains fresh in the minds of many. And for those of us who have survived, the weight and responsibility of that legacy—of those we lost, the decades of activism that transformed a nation, and the progress we've fought for—are heavy burdens, but ones we carry for ourselves and for others into the future.”