Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Mike Weir August 31, 2020

Hill Happenings 

FY2021 Appropriations 

With the September 30th fiscal year deadline fast approaching, Congressional leaders are seemingly preparing for a short-term spending extension known as a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government funded and running. Discussion and negotiations in the coming weeks will likely focus on the CR length – whether it be punting to a postelection lame-duck session or a lengthier CR that runs into 2021. The House already passed ten of their 12 Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 appropriations bills, including the second minibus that included Labor-HHS 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.  

The deadlock over another round of COVID-19 stimulus remains and will likely lead to negotiations continuing into September. It is possible that the stimulus legislation will be tied to the FY2021 appropriations process. It is likely that there will be a continuing resolution through December 2020. NASTAD will continue to monitor the appropriations process and stimulus negations and advocate for the highest funding levels on behalf of HIV and hepatitis programs.  

Administrative Activity 

HHS Releases $1.5 Billion to States, Tribes to Combat Opioid Crisis 

The Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is distributing the first-year funds of its two-year State Opioid Response (SOR) and Tribal Opioid Response (TOR) grant programs. The two programs ultimately will award nearly $3 billion over two years to help states and tribes provide community-level resources for people in need of prevention, treatment, and recovery support services, including harm reduction.  

Required activities include, “HIV and viral hepatitis testing must be performed as clinically indicated and referral to appropriate treatment provided to those testing positive. Vaccination for hepatitis A and B should be provided or referral made for same as clinically indicated.” Additionally, this new funding “also supports evidence-based prevention, treatment, and recovery support services to address stimulant misuse and use disorders, including for cocaine and methamphetamine.” 

DVH 2025 Strategic Plan 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Viral Hepatitis (DVH) published its 2025 Strategic Plan. DVH presents its 2025 goals and strategies to reduce new viral hepatitis infections, reduce viral hepatitis-related morbidity and mortality, and reduce viral hepatitis-related disparities. 

Modified COVID-19 Testing Recommendations 

The CDC modified its coronavirus testing guidelines to exclude people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19, even if they have been recently exposed to the virus. In response to the change, IDSA and HIVMA released a statement calling on the Administration to reverse “the abrupt revision of the CDC COVID-19 testing guidelines which diminish the importance of testing asymptomatic individuals who were exposed to COVID-19.” NACCHO and Big Cities Health Coalition also released a statement calling on the CDC to reverse the changes made to the testing guidance. 

USPSTF's Final Recommendation Statement: Behavioral Counseling Interventions to Prevent STIs 

The U.S Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued a grade B recommendation, recommending behavioral counseling for all sexually active adolescents and for adults who are at increased risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The recommendation shared practice considerations which supports a broader range of effective interventions considered for behavioral counseling. People at risk for STIs can receive effective support through individual or group in-person counseling, telephone discussions, written materials, videos, websites, email, and text messages.  

HHS HIV/AIDS Treatment Guidelines' Website Change 

The Office of AIDS Research (OAR) announced the transition of the public AIDSinfo.nih.gov and infoSIDA.nih.gov websites and associated HIV/AIDS activities from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) to OAR and the HHS Office of Infectious Diseases and HIV/AIDS Policy (OIDP). The current AIDSinfo.nih.gov and infoSIDA.nih.gov sites will be renamed HIVinfo.nih.gov on the NIH OAR website. OAR will maintain and update the content once the new HIVinfo.nih.gov site goes live on September 14, 2020. 

Conferences 

340B 2021 Winter Conference Call for Speakers 

The 340B Coalition is currently interested in receiving proposals on a broad range of 340B-related topics, including operations, C-suite topics, policy, compliance, and patient care for the upcoming 2021 340B Coalition Winter Conference at the end of January. The call for speakers is open until Friday, September 11, 2020.  Please use the button below to learn more and to submit a speaker proposal. If you have not yet submitted your application, please visit our submission page to view the required information and application form to learn how to submit your application. We welcome early submissions. Encourage your colleagues to participate—share this announcement. We hope to continue increasing the number of new speakers participating as more than 70 new speakers have been added to this year’s conferences. If you have any questions, please contact Eddie Van Aken at eddie.vanaken@340bhealth.org or (202) 536-2296. 

Resources 

Webinar: Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B Vaccination Efforts in People Who Inject Drugs 

“Despite recommendations for vaccination against hepatitis A virus (HAV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV) for all adults at increased risk of infection, there have been several US states that have reported outbreaks and/or increases in HAV and HBV infections among PWID in recent years. When not treated, these infections can be highly contagious and can be transmitted through unsafe injecting practices. As part of the overall goal to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030, it is necessary to increase vaccine uptake through targeted interventions among PWID. During this webinar, CDC’s NCHHSTP and DVH will provide an overview of their viral hepatitis vaccination recommendations and the recent release of new communications materials encouraging hepatitis A and B vaccination in PWID. Additionally, you will hear from jurisdictions who will speak to their community outreach initiatives to implement hepatitis A and B vaccinations for PWID.” 

Webinar: Accessing Federal Government Employment Opportunities 

“We need People Living With HIV to get jobs in the HIV Workforce. That's why the HRSA HIV/AIDS Bureau and NMAC are partnering to present a webinar focused on helping people living with HIV, especially those without the same amount of opportunities to access gainful employment, learn the best way to apply for a job. The webinar will feature Accessing Employment Opportunities for people living with HIV at federal, state, and community levels.”  

Job Postings 

Government Operations Consultant III—Florida  

The Florida Department of Health is seeking a Government Operations Consultant for the Bureau of Communicable Disease – HIV/AIDS Section. This is a highly responsible professional position that serves as the Statewide Minority HIV/AIDS Coordinator, established in Section 381.0046, Florida Statutes. This position is responsible for facilitating statewide efforts focused on HIV prevention and care initiatives and programs which reduce racial/ethnic disparities. This position is assigned to and stationed at the Department of Health in Tallahassee. The closing date for this posting is 8/28/2020. 

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.   

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.  

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 

How ‘elite controllers’ tame HIV without drugs 

“A tiny fraction of the 38 million HIV-infected people in the world have what seems like a superpower. Without the help of antiretroviral drugs, they keep the AIDS virus at undetectable levels in their blood, sometimes for many years, even though they still have HIV genes woven into their chromosomes. Now, the most in-depth genomic analysis of these rare individuals, who account for less than 0.5% of all HIV infections, reveals a clue to their success, which scientists hope will ultimately lead to new strategies to corral the virus in others.” 

Another Epidemic of Inequities: HIV Among Young Black Men 

“COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Black adults, laying bare how racism in health care and society have left Black communities vulnerable to health disparities. Unfortunately, younger Black populations endure other glaring health inequities. A recent study found that Black children are three times more likely to die within a month of surgery as white children. And for years, Black youth have silently shouldered an unequal burden of another widespread and insidious infection: HIV. Latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that Black youth have more than three times the number of new HIV diagnoses than white youth.”