Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Meredith McCarthy August 3, 2020

Hill Happenings

FY2021 Appropriations 

The House is continuing to pass Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 appropriations bills. Last week, the chamber passed a second minibus that includes Labor-HHS, Defense, Commerce-Justice-Science; Energy and Water; Financial Services; and Transportation-HUD spending bills.  

The Partnership to End the HIV, STD, and Hepatitis Epidemics issued a statement responding to the House Appropriations Committee’s proposed Labor-HHS funding bill for FY2021. The statement emphasizes that Congress must fund our public health infrastructure to end racial inequities, infectious disease and the HIV, STD, and hepatitis epidemics.  

COVID-19 Relief 

Senate Republicans released parts of the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act coronavirus relief package. The House passed their counterpart to the HEALS Act, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus and Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES) in May. As part of this package, Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) unveiled an emergency funding bill that provides: 

  • $605 million for Indian Health Services 
  • $3.4 billion for CDC including: 
    • $1.5 billion for grants or cooperative agreements with states and local health officials to carry out preparedness and response activities 
    • $500 million to prepare for and distribute seasonal influenza vaccines 
    • $200 million for global disease detection and emergency response 
    • $200 million for public health data modernization 
  • $15.5 billion for the NIH that includes $10 billion to offset reductions in laboratory productivity; $1.3 billion for additional research; $1.2 billion to accelerate research and development of therapeutics and vaccines; and $240 million for supplements for existing research training, and specific funding for the following institutes and centers: 
    • $290 million for NHLBI 
    • $200 million for NIDDK 
    • $481 million for NIAID 
  • $4.5 billion for the Health Surveillance and Program Support at SAMHSA 
  • $1.5 billion for the Administration for Children and Families 
  • $5 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grants 
  • $10 billion for back to Work Child Care Grants 
  • $75 million for the Administration for Community Living 
  • $29 billion to HHS for vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics 
  • $8 billion for primary health care and resources 
  • $16 billion for testing, contact tracing, surveillance, and mitigation 
  • $25 billion for health care provider costs 

The Senate package does not include any additional funding for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program or for Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA).  

Over the weekend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) hosted a meeting with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), to continue negotiations on the next COVID-19 relief package. The path forward is not yet entirely clear, and a lot of uncertainty remains. The four-chief congressional COVID-19 relief negotiators are scheduled to continue to meet this week. 

HELP Reintroduced 

Earlier this year, Congressman John Lewis’ (D-GA-5) office introduced H.R. 5806, the HIV Epidemic Loan-Repayment Program (HELP) Act. The legislation helps address the urgent need to ensure a robust and well-qualified infectious diseases and HIV physician and clinical workforce that is even greater due to the pandemic. There has been a change to the bill, which now includes clinical pharmacists to the list of HIV clinicians eligible for loan repayment. As a result of this change, the bill was reintroduced and assigned new bill number, H.R. 7543. NASTAD signed on to endorse this bill.  

Administrative Activity

PACHA Virtual Meeting 

The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) will hold its 68th full Council meeting virtually on Thursday, August 6, 2020 from 3:00-5:00 PM (ET). The Council members will each participate from home, community members offering public comment will join remotely, and stakeholders can view the meeting via livestream at www.hhs.gov/live

CDC Announces New Suite of HIV Treatment Works 

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) is released a new suite of HIV Treatment Works (HTW) products and materials as part of its Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign. CDC launched the HTW campaign in 2014, encouraging those with HIV to get in care, start taking HIV medications, remain in care, and stay on treatment as directed. Keeping with those themes, the new HTW focuses on reaching and supporting people with HIV throughout their life journey so that they can live well with HIV. 

CDC-CMS Initiative to Encourage Patients to Slow the Spread of COVID-19 

CDC and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are jointly launching a new initiative that encourages counseling patients being tested for COVID-19 about the importance of isolation, quarantine, and contact tracing to slow the spread of the virus. Swiftly isolating or quarantining – while waiting for test results – is critical to keeping families and communities safe, especially given people with and without symptoms can spread the virus. As part of this effort, Medicare and Medicaid will now reimburse providers for counseling patients on taking these key prevention strategies. Included in this strategy is a one pager, encouraging patients awaiting COVID-19 test results to help slow the spread of COVID-19 by isolating or quarantining while waiting for their results. 

Resources 

AIDSVu 2018 Prevalence and Incidence Maps 

AIDSVu has updated its interactive maps and data to 2018 prevalence and 2018 new HIV diagnoses at the county- and state-level. The maps also include Mortality data at the state level, showing rates and number of deaths that occurred among people with diagnosed HIV and comparison maps of social determinants of health – such as poverty, high school education, median household income, income inequality, and people without health insurance. There are also enhanced national, regional, state, county, and city data profiles. 

CHLP Convenes National Organizations to Recommend Productive Law Enforcement and Corrections Responses to COVID-19 

The Center for HIV Law and Policy (CHLP) and eight national groups renewed their call on jurisdictions across the country to replace arrests with a public health response to COVID-19 as outlined in the jointly authored Proposed Public Health and Public Safety Pathways for Criminal Justice System Responses to COVID-19 a set of principles and model projects outlining the best ways for law enforcement nationwide to proactively adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic and other public health crises.  

Joining CHLP are NASTAD, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Community Oriented Correctional Health Services, UCLA Law’s Criminal Justice Program, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association, Columbia’s Justice Lab, and the Fenway Institute.  

Ending the Epidemic 

NACCHO Stories from the Field 

NACCHO conducted a brief survey to assess local health departments’ (LHDs) HIV self-testing capacity and challenges. The survey highlighted a need for information about the variety of approaches health departments use to implement innovative HIV testing strategies. To fill that need, NACCHO has launched this ‘Stories from the Field’ series on HIV self-testing programs at LHDs. The first story can be accessed here.  

Upcoming Conferences 

USCHA 2020  

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 United States Conference on HIV/AIDS (USCHA) will take place online October 21-23. Registration is free for the first 4,000 community/non-profit registrants. All content will be available online for free after the conference. The 2020 meeting will have five plenaries, 60 workshops, 14 institutes, and a Virtual Exhibit Hall. 

Job Postings 

Strategic Planning/Visioning Consultant—Washington, DC 

NASTAD is seeking an experienced professional or company to work with NASTAD’s strategic visioning committee of Board, members, and staff, in the creation of a 3-5-year strategic vision. NASTAD is seeking a consultant who has demonstrated experience in successfully developing participatory/consensus-building strategic plans, has strong facilitation skills, has proven experience with non-profit strategic planning/visioning, and a strong understanding of building an anti-racism/anti-stigma multicultural framework as the foundation for an organization’s strategic vision. 

Manager—Washington, DC 

NASTAD is seeking a Manager for the Policy & Legislative Affairs Team. The Manager, Policy & Legislative Affairs plays a vital role in managing the development and implementation of hepatitis-related federal appropriations strategies, including for the NASTAD convened Hepatitis Appropriations Partnership, and legislation related to hepatitis prevention, care and treatment issues.  This position manages the day-to-day activities necessary to implement hepatitis-related federal legislative and regulatory goals.  The Manager also interfaces with governmental agencies, national organizations, coalitions and other non-governmental organizations to promote NASTAD’s legislative and policy agenda.  In addition, this position interfaces with NASTAD members to develop their understanding of the federal policy process and respond to their inquiries.  Demonstrated ability to execute projects in a timely manner is also required.   

Deputy Director—Maryland  

This position serves as the Deputy Director of Infectious Disease Prevention and Health Services Bureau within Prevention and Health Promotion Administration. The Deputy Director collaborates with the Director in planning, implementing and evaluating the internal operations of the Bureau in support of efforts to develop healthcare delivery systems responding to the needs to all Marylanders. Key functions include administrative oversight, regulatory and programmatic compliance, operational planning and evaluation, and staff development. The Deputy Director provides administrative supervision to the Bureau leadership team, which includes the Chiefs of the Centers of HIV Prevention and Health Services, the Maryland AIDS Drug Assistance Program (MADAP), HIV/STI Integration and Capacity, Harm Reduction Services, Viral Hepatitis, HIV Surveillance, Epidemiology and Evaluation, and STI Prevention. The position may act for the Director at his/her direction.  

Assistant Commissioner — 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.  

Community Health Worker/Contact Tracer—Maryland 

The Baltimore Health Corps is looking for a Community Health Worker/Contact Tracer to assist in addressing the economic and public health crises caused by COVID-19. The Community Health Worker (CHW) will be a part of the COVID-19 response team at the Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD). Under general supervision by a direct supervisor, the Community Health Worker will be working as a public health representative. The person will be working on activities such as contact tracing (approximately 70%), public health messaging (approximately 20%), and any other public health activities as directed (10%). As the needs to the response will change over time, the role of the CHW will also adapt to public health needs. 

Viral Hepatitis Policy Fellow—Washington, D.C./Remote 

The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable seeks a Viral Hepatitis Policy Fellow to coordinate its policy work. The Viral Hepatitis Fellowship is a year-long remote position, with the possibility of renewal. Due to the need for meetings with federal lawmakers, the employee shall be based in commuting distance to Washington, D.C. The Fellowship will be awarded to a medical, public health, or policy professional interested in health equity; specifically, in strengthening the collaboration between key stakeholders and government, highlighting key gaps in policy and service delivery, and working with partners to address the disparate impact of viral hepatitis among underserved populations. 

Public Health and Prevention Specialist III—Texas  

The Texas Department of State Health Services is seeking a Public Health and Prevention Specialist to perform highly complex and advanced technical activities related to HIV, STD, and Tuberculosis data management and processing, under the direction of the Program Informatics and Evaluations Group Manager. Oversee, monitor and maintain high volume workflows and conduct activities related to data management and processing in the TB, HIV, STD Integrated System (THISIS). Create written procedures for the monitoring and maintenance of high-volume workflows and best practices in maintaining workflows. Collaborate with program subject-matter experts to enhance work processes and best practices. Develop and provide training on deduplication and facility management. Act as the subject-matter expert for facility management and deduplication. 

Program Specialist IV—Texas 

The Texas Department of State Health Services is seeking a Program Specialist for the Epidemiology & Surveillance Department. Under the limited supervision of the STD/Hepatitis C Epidemiology and Surveillance Group Manager, uses knowledge to independently perform highly complex disease database management. Provides complex and advanced oversight of sexually transmitted disease (STD) data in the TB/HIV/STD Integrated System (THISIS). This includes effective, secure, and efficient storage, retrieval, and archiving of information from multiple program sites into the THISIS system, which includes local and regional health departments across the State. Provides programmatic consultative services and technical assistance to the THISIS users located at each of the remote sites statewide. Develops and implements procedures, standards and policies relating to the operations and design of THISIS and its STD components. Performs site reviews statewide of STD surveillance sites, this includes local and regional Health Departments. Assists in establishing goals and objectives for the statewide STD surveillance program and THISIS and monitors progress toward those goals and objectives. Works under limited supervision, with moderate latitude for the use of initiative and independent judgement. 

News Bulletin

Will People With HIV Be Excluded From COVID-19 Vaccine Trials? 

“As the world waits with bated breath for a safe and effective vaccine to prevent SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, people living with HIV are concerned that they may be excluded from clinical trials testing these vaccines.” 

Bill Gates: How HIV/AIDS prepared us to tackle COVID-19 

“Bill Gates thinks lessons from the AIDS fight can help defeat COVID-19, in particular teaching us about building ‘large, fair, global distribution systems.’ But he says AIDS treatment programs can actually benefit too. ‘Better diagnostic tools are being developed to help identify these [coronavirus] infections. Investments are being made in libraries of antiviral drugs. Also we’re making great progress on vaccines.’” 

More Than Half of Americans Still Believe Dangerous Myths About HIV 

“We still have a long way to go in combatting HIV/AIDS stigma, according to a new report from GLAAD. The advocacy group’s first State of HIV Stigma Study surveyed more than 2,500 Americans over the age of 18 about their knowledge and opinions regarding HIV/AIDS and people living with HIV. The research was funded by Gilead Sciences, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the HIV prevention drug Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), also known as Truvada, and is developing a costly new COVID-19 treatment. And its results are staggering: In 2020, nearly six out of 10 Americans wrongfully believe that “it is important to be careful around people living with HIV to avoid catching it.’” 

Department of Homeland Security’s Proposed Changes to Asylum Seeking Regulation Threatens Health Equity and Access to Health Care 

“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed a rule that would drastically narrow the eligibility parameters for asylum seekers, including nearly a dozen new barriers to asylum that would rewrite the law to exclude nearly all people escaping persecution and seeking refuge in the United States (U.S.). The existing asylum-seeking process in the U.S. has proven to efficiently and effectively admit credible asylum seekers in ways that uphold the United States commitment to humanitarian aid and protections, yet the proposed rule aims to dismantle this system in a way that will harm vulnerable populations with disastrous public health consequences.”