Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Mike Weir September 14, 2020

Hill Happenings 

COVID-19 Relief and FY2021 Appropriations Updates 

Last week, Senate Republicans were unable to pass the "skinny" version of their HEALS Act COVID-19 relief bill, the Delivering Immediate Relief to America's Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act, by a 52-47 vote. The deadlock over another round of COVID-19 stimulus remains and will likely lead to negotiations continuing through September and possibly until after the November election. 

With the September 30th fiscal year deadline approaching, Congressional and Appropriations Committee Leaders are voicing support for a clean continuing resolution (CR) until December to avoid a shutdown. 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 

NOFO for Integrated Viral Hepatitis Surveillance and Prevention Funding for Health Departments 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) announcement for PS21-2103: Integrated Viral Hepatitis Surveillance and Prevention Funding for Health Departments. The purpose of this NOFO is to implement integrated viral hepatitis surveillance and prevention programs in states and large cities. Key strategies include viral hepatitis outbreak planning and response; and surveillance for acute hepatitis A, B, and C, and chronic hepatitis C. PS21-2103 is a five-year cooperative agreement with a total award amount of $341,020,000. The NOFO is composed of three core components: Component 1—Surveillance (Required), Component 2—Prevention (Required), and Component 3—Special Projects (Optional).  

It is imperative that all eligible jurisdictions submit an application for the NOFO. NASTAD will continue to provide updates as additional information becomes available. Additional details about the NOFO are available via Grants.gov and on the CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis website

Dear Colleague: Shortage of STI Diagnostic Kits and Supplies 

The CDC Division of STD Prevention issued a Dear Colleague letter offering guidance to prevention programs, including clinics, on approaches to prioritizing chlamydial and gonococcal testing when STI diagnostic test kits are in short supply. “There is a current shortage of STI test kits and laboratory supplies, most notably for chlamydia and gonorrhea nucleic acid amplification tests (CT/GC NAAT). The shortages affect multiple diagnostic companies, public health and commercial laboratories and impact several components of the specimen collection and testing process.”  

Conferences 

Hepatitis Virtual Collaborative 

Join NASTAD and The AIDS Institute on October 22nd for the first ever Hepatitis Virtual Collaborative! It is a partial-day opportunity for hepatitis and infectious disease advocates and patients from across the country to come together virtually to connect with each other and learn about what jurisdictions are doing to combat viral hepatitis in their communities through presentations and conversations. Best of all, it’s FREE! 

Presentations will include hepatitis elimination strategies and how a syndemic approach must be taken that incorporates responses to the viral hepatitis epidemics, overdose prevention, and other public health efforts. Additional barriers to advancing hepatitis elimination will also be examined, including criminalization of hepatitis and drug use, discrimination and stigma concerns, treatment access issues in correctional settings, vaccination barriers, and health inequities. Registration information will be sent around at a later date. Please reach out to Frank Hood (fhood@taimail.org) or Jasmine West (jwest@nastad.org) with any questions. 

Resources 

Webinar: Determining the Best Monetary Value When Using Digital Technology 

Date & Time: NEW DATE Wednesday, September 23, 2020 from 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EDT 

“This webinar, titled “Determining the Best Monetary Value When Using Digital Technology,” will feature the Kaiser Family Foundation as they explore the financial and funding components needed to support digital technology. Topics will include how EHE funding can support digital technology, the costs of certain aspects (e.g., buying an ad versus posting a message, traditional media versus digital media costs, etc.), and how to get the best value out of platforms (cost per share, audience reach, etc.).” 

Job Postings 

Open Positions – New York State 

The New York State Department of Health, in partnership with Health Research, Inc, has various job openings, including some within the AIDS Institute. Please visit this link to learn about their current opportunities.  

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 

Supporting Engagement & Re-engagement in HIV Care to End the HIV Epidemic in Baltimore 

“Unapologetically enabling” is the mantra of the Baltimore City Health Department’s Getting to Zero + Initiative, which employs novel approaches to support clients with engagement and re-engagement in HIV care. Dr. Victoria A. Cargill, Assistant Commissioner of the Baltimore City Health Department, discussed the program at the 2020 Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Clinical Conference. Her August 12 presentation  was part of a panel about the Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) initiative which includes a focus on engaging people with HIV in care who have yet to be engaged and re-engaging those who are lost to care.” 

Pandemic vs. pandemic: COVID-19 hampers fight against HIV 

“Meanwhile, scores of state social workers in Alabama who were trained to track down and reengage people who dropped out of HIV treatment have instead been put to work investigating COVID-19 cases, said Sharon Jordan, director of the HIV Prevention and Care Office at the Alabama Department of Public Health. “I feel like the HIV community, those who are infected, probably feel as if nobody is thinking about us anymore,” she said.” 

‘Essential lessons’ from HIV fight can help coronavirus response, says UNAIDS 

“The study by UNAIDS, the UN agency working to stamp out HIV and AIDS, outlines how the world can leverage and build resilient health systems that address both pandemics. "

“Our decades-long fight against HIV offers essential lessons. By heeding those lessons and working together, we can ensure that national health responses deliver on the promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the health and well-being of all”, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.” 

Nashville CARES announces free drive-thru HIV, Hepatitis C testing event 

“Nashville CARES will be offering free drive-thru HIV and Hepatitis C testing Friday. The testing event is taking place at the 633 Thompson Lane location in Nashville."

"Organizers say all testing will be free and follow HIPAA guidelines. Rapid HIV tests will be performed so attendees receive their results before leaving. Hepatitis C tests take more time to process, but results will be in by the end of Friday.”