Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Mike Weir October 5, 2020

Hill Happenings

COVID-19 Relief and FY2021 Appropriations Updates

Congressional and Administration leaders reached a deal on a continuing resolution (CR) to avoid a government shutdown – extending government funding through December 11th. The measure passed the House and Senate and was signed by the President. The Coalition for Health Funding, of which NASTAD is a member, sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to pass the fiscal year 2021 funding bills as soon as possible, citing examples of the harmful impact CRs have on public health and research programs. 

Congressional and Administration leaders remain in a deadlock over another round of COVID-19 stimulus. The House released and passed an updated version of the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES) Act, which proposes an additional $100 million for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and $65 million for the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) Program. The package is unlikely to be taken up by the Senate. 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. 

Senate ACA Vote

The Senate failed to pass a measure that would have prohibited the Department of Justice from supporting a legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The vote was a procedural one to advance the measure, but the 51-43 count failed to meet the 60 vote threshold needed. The Supreme Court is slated to hear arguments in the lawsuit on November 10.

Extended Senate Recess

The Senate has recessed until October 19, due to at least three Senators testing positive for coronavirus. With Senate floor activity effectively halted until mid-October, negations on another round of COVID-19 stimulus and the legislative calendar may be impacted.

Administrative Activity

Draft Federal Hepatitis Action Plan Open for Public Comment

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy (OIDP) released the draft Viral Hepatitis National Strategic Plan: A Roadmap to Elimination (2021-2025) (Hepatitis Plan). All comments must be submitted electronically to HepatitisPlanComments@hhs.gov by 5:00 PM ET on October 8, 2020. NASTAD previously submitted comments on the proposed Hepatitis Plan and will submit comments on the draft Hepatitis Plan.

Eugene McCray, MD Retires from CDC

Eugene McCray, M.D., Director, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention (DHAP), National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP), retired September 30 after 35 years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Irene Hall, PhD, MPH, DHAP’s Deputy Director for Surveillance, Epidemiology and Laboratory Science, will serve as the Acting Director until the permanent DHAP Director starts.

COVID Public Health Emergency

HHS Secretary Alex Azar announced the extension of the public health emergency (PHE) declaration effective October 23, 2020. Now the PHE will run through January 31, 2021.

New HRSA/HAB Aging Reference Guides

Over the last year, the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) HIV/AIDS Bureau (HAB) has been working with Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program recipients, subrecipients, and providers to identify and share effective strategies to meet the unique needs of this growing population. As part of this effort, HRSA HAB released two new reference guides to assist health care professionals as their aging population grows. 

  • Incorporating New Elements of Care: This reference guide identifies commonly occurring health care and social needs of people aging with HIV and highlights the screenings and assessments for these needs. It serves as a starting point for health care teams as they build and expand their knowledge and practice of serving people aging with HIV.
  • Putting Together the Best Health Care Team: This reference guide discusses how all members of the health care team can contribute to the care of people aging with HIV. Specifically, this guide identifies roles, responsibilities, staff training, and resources for the health care team to build their capacity and may assist the health care team as they build and expand their knowledge and practice of serving people aging with HIV.

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

The 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.

NOFO PS21-2102: Comprehensive High-Impact HIV Prevention Programs for Community-Based Organizations

The CDC released the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) PS21-2102: Comprehensive High-Impact HIV Prevention Programs for Community-Based Organizations. Letters of Intent are due September 30, 2020 to CBOFOA@cdc.gov. The application deadline is November 20, 2020, 11:59 PM ET. For additional information, please visit the PS21-2102 website.

Health Department Call for Abstract Submission – Special Journal Issue

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are inviting submissions from health departments and their academic partners for a thematic supplement titled “The Evidence Base for Initial Intervention Strategies for Ending the HIV Epidemic in America.” CDC is interested in health department program experience and evidence of best practices for implementing the EHE strategies identified in the PS20-2010 NOFO. Topics may focus on strategies for implementing any of the EHE pillars: Diagnose, Prevent, Treat, or Respond. If you are interested in contributing a paper, please provide a 350-word unstructured abstract summarizing the paper’s topic by Friday, November 6, 2020. Please submit abstracts to Dawn Smith at dsmith1@cdc.gov. Local EHE counties are encouraged to submit abstracts to this special journal issue.

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. Click here to register now and stay tuned for more information on the agenda release and speakers in the coming weeks. Please reach out to Frank Hood (fhood@taimail.org) or Jasmine West (jwest@nastad.org) with any questions.

Resources

Webinar: Sex Worker-Centered Harm Reduction

Date & Time: Thursday, October 15 from 4:00 – 5:15 PM ET

NASTAD will be hosting a webinar to discuss the application of harm reduction principles and practices within the sex trade. The webinar will cover HIV prevalence and prevention among people who trade sex; overlapping activities, interventions, and approaches between people who trade sex and people who use drugs; and services and partnerships that advance sex worker health. The webinar is hosted by NASTAD through the CDC-funded National Harm Reduction TA Center and will be facilitated by Justice Rivera of Reframe Health and Justice. This webinar is for anyone currently running or supporting a sex worker harm reduction program, as well as those interested in doing so. To join the webinar, please register hereAfter registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Webinar: Integrating Anal Health into HIV Prevention Strategies

Date & Time: Thursday, October 22 from 2:00 – 3:00 PM ET

Join NASTAD for a webinar discussing anal health and the importance of integrating anal health care into HIV prevention strategies for all people, but especially for gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBM). The session will be open to all health departments and affiliated community partners. This webinar will discuss the connection between anal health and overall sexual health and wellness, current protocols for screening and care, as well as ways to discuss anal health screening to GBM. By the end of this webinar, participants will be able to: discuss anal health’s impact on sexual health and wellness; understand recommended anal screening protocols; and discuss anal health with clients/ patients that identify as GBM. The webinar will be recorded and shared afterwards. To join the webinar, please register here.

NASTAD Webinar Series: Effectively Engaging Community in the Ending the HIV Epidemic Process Through Digital Technology

In collaboration with Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), NASTAD hosted a webinar series titled Effectively Engaging Community in the Ending the HIV Epidemic Process Through Digital Technology. The series, which launched in June 2020, aimed to support health departments and community-based organizations (CBOs) to accelerate jurisdictional efforts toward Ending the HIV Epidemic. Recordings of the webinars are listed below:

New Primary Care and HIV CME Offering

“The American Academy of HIV Medicine, the nation’s leading independent organization of healthcare professionals dedicated to providing excellence in HIV care and prevention, recently released the new HIV Management in Primary Care multi-media online activity. Housed within the Academy’s online Provider Education Center, the interactive module offers healthcare providers free continuing education credits for those seeking advanced knowledge in the primary care of a person with HIV (PWH).”

Job Postings

HIV Planner - HIV/STD DSHS Grant – UT Austin

The HIV Planner, in coordination with the UT-Austin Health Innovation and Evaluation Team and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) HIV Care Services Group and the HIV/STD Prevention and Care Branch Planning team, will perform comprehensive, advisory duties in developing, planning, and monitoring the development and implementation of HIV strategic, operational, program, and technical assistance plans.

HIV Prevention Manager—Ohio

The Ohio Department of Health’s Bureau of Infectious Diseases is seeking one candidate to fill their Health Planning Administrator 2 role for the HIV Prevention program. The Manager would be responsible for coordinating all components of the HIV Prevention Program (e.g., managing the statewide HIV testing program, implementing high-impact prevention strategies including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), and blood-borne pathogen prevention programs, managing the statewide PrEP assistance program known as PAPI (Prevention Assistance Program Interventions), collaborating with the STI Prevention program to achieve partner services and linkage to care performance measures, implementing innovative HIV testing initiatives, managing the deliverables of contractors, reducing health disparities among disproportionately impacted populations, providing leadership in the statewide community planning group and community-level interventions, demonstrating the application of feedback from stakeholders in community planning documents and activities consistent with federal guidance, provide programmatic leadership in cluster investigation and outbreak response related to HIV transmission).

Program Director (Public Health) – Washington, DC

NGA is looking to add a bright, resourceful, and organized Program Director to our Center for Best Practices team. This position reports to the Director or Deputy Director. The Program Director’s primary responsibilities will be to manage the public health portfolio, including supporting governors in their efforts to lead the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Key issue areas will include preparing for and responding to public health emergencies, strengthening state public health capacity and partnerships, improving COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, addressing the spread of infectious diseases, advancing chronic disease prevention efforts, and supporting health equity and reducing health disparities for at-risk populations, among other population and public health issues. This position is open until filled.

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.

ManagerWashington, 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. 

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

Nimble, Collaborative, Community-Driven: Lessons from Hep Free 2030, Hawai'i's New Hepatitis Elimination Strategy

“Hawai'i has one of the highest rates of liver cancer in the United States. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are the leading causes of liver cancer in the state and could affect up to 63,000 people across the islands. Most adults at-risk for and living with chronic hepatitis B or chronic hepatitis C do not know it and therefore do not access hepatitis screening, vaccinations and/or treatment. To address this health crisis, Hep Free Hawai'i (HFH) released the state’s first hepatitis elimination plan on July 28, 2020 to coincide with World Hepatitis day.”

Study: Just 54% of Practitioners Have Prescribed PrEP to HIV-Vulnerable Patients

“A new study suggests that many medical professionals are not prescribing HIV prevention medications, even to patients at risk of contracting HIV. Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center surveyed 519 practitioners in 5 major cities who attended a continuing education course on HIV between March and May 2015. According to the study, Healthcare practitioner experiences and willingness to prescribe pre-exposure prophylaxis in the US, less than 10% of the more than 1 million people vulnerable to HIV are taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).”

Governor Newsom Signs “The Equal Insurance HIV Act” Enacting Anti-discrimination Protections in State Law

“Governor Newsom signed SB 1255 – The Equal Insurance HIV Act by Senator Lena Gonzalez (D- Long Beach) and the Senate Committee on Insurance. The Equal Insurance HIV Act will end the unjust practice of insurance companies discriminating against HIV-positive individuals. For more than thirty years insurers have been allowed to deny life and disability income insurance coverage based solely on a positive HIV test and this bill now signed into law is a significant step forward to reflect the advancements in medical treatments for people living with HIV and to ensure HIV positive individuals and their families have access to life and disability income insurance.”

US study shows an increased risk of dementia in men ageing with HIV

“Do men who age with HIV have a higher risk of dementia than their HIV-negative counterparts? It may well be the case, according to a recent study conducted in the US by Dr Kirsten Bobrow, University of California San Francisco. Like the general population, people with HIV experience multiple comorbidities and age-associated diseases as they get older. Also, it has been demonstrated that once HIV enters the brain, as early as the first days of infection, it causes mild cognitive changes, which persist despite successful control of the virus with antiretroviral therapy. Additionally, some anti-HIV drugs can themselves increase the risk of cerebrovascular, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, which are known to affect brain health and increase the risk of dementia.”

Americans and Briton win Nobel Prize in medicine for discovery of Hepatitis C virus

“Researchers Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice have won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus, the committee announced on Monday. Prior to their work, the committee said, the discovery of the Hepatitis A and B viruses had been critical steps forward, but the majority of blood-borne hepatitis cases was still unexplained. “The discovery of Hepatitis C virus revealed the cause of the remaining cases of chronic hepatitis and made possible blood tests and new medicines that have saved millions of lives,” the statement shared by the committee said.”