Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Mike Weir December 17, 2018

With the upcoming winter break the next Policy Newsletter (PNL) will be released on January 7. That PNL we will highlight public health policy developments of the past year and look ahead to 2019 on policy issues to watch. 

Hill Happenings

Federal Funding

In late September, the House and Senate passed the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies funding bill for the first time since 1996 without a continuing resolution (CR). The FY2019 funding bill increased funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP), by $5 million to address the infectious diseases related to the opioid epidemic. Funding was flat funded for all parts of the Ryan White Program.

A partial government shutdown may occur late Friday if Congress is unable to pass the remaining seven funding bills. Since funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has already been funded, health departments should not expect to see any funding delays due to a partial shutdown.  


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) struck a deal with Democrats who had previously opposed her for speakership. Under the deal, Pelosi agreed to limit her speakership to four years at most. The full House will vote January 3 to elect a new speaker.

Senate Committee Assignments

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced the Democratic committee lineup for the 116th Congress. 

Appropriations Committee Democrats:

Senator Patrick Leahy (VT) Ranking Member, Patty Murray (WA), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Dick Durbin (IL), Jack Reed (RI), Jon Tester (MT), Tom Udall (NM), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Jeff Merkley (OR), Chris Coons (DE), Brian Schatz (HI), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Chris Murphy (CT), Joe Manchin (WW), Chris Van Hollen (MD)

Budget Committee Democrats:

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Ranking Member, Patty Murray (WA), Ron Wyden (OR), Debbie Stabenow (MI), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Mark Warner (VA), Jeff Merkley (OR), Tim Kaine (VA), Chris Van Hollen (MD), Kamala Harris (CA)

Finance Committee Democrats:

Senator Wyden (OR) Ranking Member, Debbie Stabenow (MI), Maria Cantwell (WA), Robert Menendez (NJ), Tom Carper (DE), Ben Cardin (MD), Sherrod Brown (OH), Michael Bennet (UT), Bob Casey (PA), Mark Warner (VA), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Maggie Hassan (NH), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV)

Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee Democrats:

Senator Patty Murray (WA) Ranking Member, Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Casey (PA), Tammy Baldwin (WI, Chris Murphy (CT), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Tim Kaine (VA), Maggie Hassan (NH), Tina Smith (MN), Doug Jones (AL), Jacky Rosen (NV)

Fetal Tissue Research Hearing

Ahead of a hearing on fetal tissue, NASTAD signed onto a letter to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committees regarding the value of fetal tissue for research. Research that relies on fetal tissue is crucial in developing HIV treatment, cure, and vaccine modalities.

Arizona Senator

Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) announced he would step down at the end of the year. Senator Kyl had accepted a temporary appointment after the death of Senator John McCain. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) will appointment another person until a special election is held in November 2020. 

Administration Activities

Personnel Updates

Carolyn Wester, MD, MPH, has been selected as the new Director of NCHHSTP‘s Division of Viral Hepatitis (DVH). Since 2008, Dr. Wester has served as the Medical Director for HIV, STDs, and Viral Hepatitis at the Tennessee Department of Health. Dr. Wester will begin her new position on January 22, 2019.

Ryan White Data Report

The Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) HIV/AIDS Bureau’s (HAB) released the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Annual Client-Level Data Report, 2017. The report features Services Report (RSR) data on all clients served by the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program during calendar years 2013 through 2017. 

USPSTF Recommendation

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued a Draft Recommendation Statement for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), with a proposed ‘A’ grade for “persons at high risk of HIV acquisition.”The opportunity for public comment on USPSTF’s Draft Recommendation Statement expires on December 26, 2018 at 8:00 PM EST. 

USPSTF also released a Draft Research Plan for Screening for Hepatitis B in Nonpregnant Adolescents and Adults. The comment period is open from today, November 29, 2018 through January 2, 2019.

NASTAD is preparing comments for both drafts and encourages members and partners to submit comments of their own.

Job Opportunities

Disease Intervention Specialist – Alaska

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is hiring for a Disease Investigation Specialist I within their Division of Public Health, Section of Epidemiology, HIV/STD Program.

DExIS Project Coordinator – Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health is hiring for a DExIS Project Coordinator within their AIDS Activities Coordinating Office.

Prevention and Epidemiology & Surveillance Branch Chief Positions – CDC

CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis is hiring for two positions: Viral Hepatitis Prevention Branch Chief; and an Epidemiology & Surveillance Branch Chief.

Upcoming Conferences

2019 National HIV Prevention Conference

The 2019 National HIV Prevention Conference (NHPC) will be held March 18-21, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. Registration is now open

2019 HIV Diagnostics Conference

The 2019 HIV Diagnostics Conference will be held in Atlanta on March 25-28, 2019. The conference will address advances in diagnostic testing, and strategies for using test technologies in public health programs and clinical practice. The conference program this year expands beyond HIV testing, and incorporates STI and HCV testing technologies and strategies, with an emphasis on integrating testing programmatically. As with past conferences, there will be a mix of oral presentations, panel discussions, and poster sessions. We strongly encourage health department HIV, HCV, and STI testing program managers and other staff consider submitting an abstract, attending the conference.  

PrEP Public Health Detailing Institute

The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) is hosting its second annual “Public Health Detailing Institute” for health departments who are interested in building provider capacity to offer PrEP and immediate ART for those diagnosed with HIV. Registration will close on December 17, 2018. The Institute is scheduled in San Francisco from February 20-22 and is free of charge (health departments will need to cover hotel and travel costs). This institute is being co-hosted by the New York City Capacity Building Assistance program and the National Resource Center for Academic Detailing (NaRCAD).


NASTAD released the Trauma-Informed Approaches Toolkit. This toolkit was developed to assist health departments, specifically Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) Part B and AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs), AIDS services organizations, and HIV clinics to take action to become trauma-informed.

NASTAD released a map detailing jurisdictions who have developed Ending the Epidemic plans. These plans are dynamic and will be updated as progress continues.

The National Academy of Public Administration released a report, The Impact of Sexually Transmitted Diseases on the United States: Still Hidden, Getting Worse, Can Be Controlled. The National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) “contracted with the National Academy of Public Administration to undertake a comprehensive study of the present STD landscape in the United States as a first-step in examining the scope of the epidemic, intersecting and complicating factors, public policy solutions and federal programs involved in STD prevention and control.” 

News Bulletin

Azar Tries to Calm Concerns Over Proposal's Impact on HIV Drugs

“Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar sought to quell concerns Tuesday that a drug pricing proposal announced last month could result in restricted access to HIV treatment. During a speech at the National Ryan White Conference on HIV Care and Treatment, Azar reassured the audience that the Trump administration's underlying goal is to expand access to lifesaving drugs by making them more affordable.”

'Dense sexual networks' behind high HIV rates of gay black men, study finds

“Young black men who have sex with men (MSM) face a disproportionate risk of acquiring HIV because of “dense sexual networks” and other structural factors, not high-risk sexual activities, according to a new study conducted by Northwestern University.”

Health district seeks to step up HIV diagnoses and treatment in Nevada

“The Southern Nevada Health District on Tuesday issued a call-to-action to community partners and health care providers to implement HIV/AIDS interventions and strategies to achieve the goal of "90-90-90" in Nevada.”