spacerGive Online Today! Forward  |  Unsubscribe  |  View in Browserspacer

Policy Update 7-29-2011
In This Issue...

AIDS United
spacer
Beyond the Debt Ceiling: A Way Forward in HIV
IOM Report Suggests HIV and STI Testing and Counseling are Essential Preventative Services in Women and Should be Provided without Co-Pay
Essential Health Benefits and What They Mean for People Living with HIV/AIDS?
HHS to Study Blood Deferral Policy
AIDS United Participates in World Hepatitis Day Event at the White House
HIV/AIDS in the South: Still Fighting the Stigma
Announcements
spacer

Beyond the Debt Ceiling: A Way Forward in HIV

Picture

This week, Congress has continued to grapple with deals that would raise the debt ceiling before the August 2 deadline and allow the United States to avoid defaulting on its financial obligations. As of printing time, no deal had been reached and the details surrounding possible compromises are still very dubious. AIDS United sent out an Action Alert encouraging people to call and tell their elected officials to vote for a balanced approach to deficit reduction. Please stay tuned to AIDS United’s website and Action Alerts to remain active throughout the deficit reduction process to make sure you voice and the voice of the HIV community is heard. Click here to read more about the debt ceiling and the surrounding debate.

Sitting around and waiting for the outcome of the debt ceiling circus can be a bit maddening in more ways than one, particularly if you don’t derive pleasure from witnessing dysfunction  or if you work in a field like public health and HIV programs that are likely to suffer at the hands of deep spending cuts. As Congress continues to back their way into a debt ceiling compromise, one thing has become quite clear: deep spending cuts will be made. Although it is easy to get caught up in every twist, turn, and non-action by our elected representatives, this type of behavior will likely increase your blood pressure and can also be disempowering if you overlook the progress that has been made in the fight against HIV when funding streams unpredictable. Certainly money is what makes it possible to scale up effective programs and interventions as well as protect essential safety net programs like the Ryan White Care Act that serves as the payer of last resort for low-income people living with HIV. However, it is clear that at least for the foreseeable future as we continue to struggle through a stark economic climate and an even starker political climate, we need to be ready to move forward and make the most with whatever resources we have available to us.

Here is a list of 5 ways to maximize the impact of your organization or your own personal advocacy efforts without having to rely on Congress: Read more...

spacer

back to top

IOM Report Suggests HIV and STI Testing and Counseling are Essential Preventative Services in Women and Should be Provided without Co-Pay

Picture

The release of a new Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, Clinical Preventive Services for Women: Closing the Gaps, offers new recommendations on preventative services for women.  The report was conducted under the request of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and is important because under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), individuals enrolled in private health plans will have no insurance co-pays for a specified list of preventive services that will be designated by HHS.  The report made eight recommendations to HHS, including annual HIV testing and counseling and annual counseling on sexually transmitted infections in all sexually active women, screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence, and contraception methods, among others. 

Read the report to learn more about this and other recommendations: Clinical Preventive Services for Women: Closing the Gaps

spacer

back to top

Essential Health Benefits and What They Mean for People Living with HIV/AIDS?

Picture

The Affordable Care Act (AHA) mandates the development of market of “Qualified Health Plans” (QHP)S to be available to all individuals and businesses that would be available through a virtual marketplace called “exchanges,” where QHPs could be compared and purchased.  Think “Orbitz” or “Expedia” for health insurance.  As part of these QHPs,  the AHA also requires establishment by the department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of a minimum set of “essential health benefits” that QHPs will be required to cover for all beneficiaries.  These required benefits address ten categories of services and products, which include chronic disease management and prescription drugs.

Prescription drug costs within these packages would likely be structured similarly to the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan, where drugs that cost over $600 per month are placed in a “specialty tier.”  Drugs commonly placed within this tier include complex therapies used for specific conditions like HIV/AIDS. Drugs in this tier are not covered by co-pay but coinsurance, which means the beneficiary shares a percentage of the cost that varies depending on the cost of the drug, which could cost the beneficiary up to $1,000 per month or more.

Unfortunately, these cost-sharing barriers can actually drive UP health care costs, because of inevitable hospital visits for complications that are a result of patients not following proper drug regimens because of their cost-sharing responsibilities.  A recent analysis conducted by Avalere Health LLC showed that patients who faced cost-sharing over $500 were four times more likely to desert their treatment than patients who only faced cost-sharing of $100 or less. As a result, increased cost sharing required for specialty tiers disproportionately harms patients with conditions like HIV/AIDS, by having bigger out-of-pocket costs than most patients.

People living with HIV/AIDS MUST have a voice in defining these benefits!  The public comment period for HHS proposed rulemaking on these essential health benefits ends on September 28, 2011. Click here to submit a comment today and make sure that any and all health benefits help and do not hurt those with HIV/AIDS!

spacer

back to top

HHS to Study Blood Deferral Policy

Picture

In a short memo released on July 22nd, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) outlined a study program to review donor deferral policies related to gay men in response to recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability (ACBSA).  The current donation policy requires any man who has ever had sex with another man even once since 1977 to defer from giving blood.  The Committee heard substantial expert testimony in June of last year, including testimony from AIDS United’s Political Director William McColl, that this policy is discriminatory.  Critics have said that the current system of screening fails to distinguish between men who have sex with men who are at lower risk from others including heterosexual who are at higher risk.  The HHS memo outlined several questions related to the risk of blood transmissible diseases in the current donor population, the root cause of Quarantine Release Errors (QRE), evaluation of donor behavior and understanding and whether an alternative screening program would continue to assure blood safety.  According to the memo, studies could answer initial questions by 2013, however not all of the studies needed have been fully funded.  AIDS United called for the Department of Health and Human Services to move forward quickly to end this discriminatory policy. 

AIDS United partner Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York has played a leading role in motivating HHS to reconsider the deferral policy.  Their study of this issue can be found here

News reports about the release can be found here.  The memo is not currently available on the HHS website.

spacer

back to top

AIDS United Participates in World Hepatitis Day Event at the White House

Picture

On Thursday, July 28th, AIDS United participated in the first White House World Hepatitis Day.  To commemorate the event, the White House held a three hour briefing which featured remarks from Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu, Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Dr. Howard Koh, Director-General at the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Margaret Chan.  Members of Congress, Representatives Bill Cassidy, Judy Chu, Michael Honda, Hank Johnson, and Barbara Lee spoke about their experiences with hepatitis.  The briefing also featured a panel of federal government officials discussing implementation of the National Viral Hepatitis Strategy which was released May 12th.  The event closed with a panel of experts and advocates, including those currently with hepatitis B or C.  Viral hepatitis disproportionately affects people living with HIV.  One third of HIV infected people are co-infected with Hepatitis B (HBV) or Hepatitis C (HCV).  It’s important for PLWHA to get tested and treated since progression of viral hepatitis is accelerated among persons with HIV and people who are co-infected experience greater liver-related health problems.

Read the Presidential Proclamation on World Hepatitis Day or check out Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health at HHS Ron Valdiserri’s blog piece covering the event

spacer

back to top

HIV/AIDS in the South: Still Fighting the Stigma

Picture

Please take the time to read the newest addition to our AIDS at 30 blog series that describes the unique challenges of being a person living with HIV in the south.

Submissions to the AIDS at 30 blog series are invited from all AIDS United stakeholders, including Community Partnerships (and their grantee organizations), grantees, funders, Trustees, staff, advocates, Facebook and Twitter friends and followers, and anyone who has been impacted by HIV/AIDS who reads this blog.  For submission guidelines, email Jimmy Schneidewind at jschneidewind@aidsunited.org. AIDS United reserves the right to edit submissions for clarity and length.

spacer

back to top

Announcements

Picture

HIV+ gay and bi men! Sign-on letter supporting an informed debate about PrEP based on facts, not misinformation

Sign on to the letter here!

The release of data from the iPrEx study of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention in gay and bisexual men and transgender women has led to a good deal of debate about whether and how PrEP should be used. Unfortunately, some of that debate has been fueled by misrepresentations of the study data and, perhaps more alarmingly, by groundless assertions that gay/bi men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) will misuse PrEP, spread drug resistance and act without regard to their health or the health of others if PrEP is made available. A paid ad campaign by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation running in gay papers across the country has contributed to spreading false ideas both about PrEP and about the commitment of gay/bi men to care for themselves and others. We reject those false assertions and want a full and factual discussion of the pros and cons of PrEP in our community.

Recently, two additional studies, Partners PrEP and the CDC's TDF2 study have confirmed the safety and efficacy of PrEP, this time in heterosexual women and men.

A small group of HIV positive gay/bi men who are committed to promoting safer sex and the open exchange of accurate information are circulating the following letter to help clarify the facts about PrEP, open up community discussion and make clear our belief that we are entitled to respect, accurate information and new HIV prevention tools.

Sign on to the letter here!

This sign on letter is part of a broad array of advocacy activities being undertaken by the national PrEP Committee. Members of the PrEP Committee include individuals from a host of organizations working on PrEP and other new prevention technologies who meet regularly by phone and email to share information and strategize. For allies who are not HIV+ gay/bi men, you can learn more about this work and how to participate by sending an email to Jim Pickett at jpickett@aidschicago.org.

We encourage HIV+ gay/bi men who are allied in the fight against AIDS to help us clear the record about PrEP by signing on to this letter.

Where Should ARV-based Strategies be on the HIV Prevention Map?
The results of recent clinical trials demonstrate that anti-retroviral based prevention strategies hold great promise for ending the HIV epidemic, while simultaneously raising important and challenging questions for the HIV community. A research-driven, community-led global understanding of the emerging evidence based around the adoption of ARV-based prevention strategies is essential to answering these questions and in deciding where, how, and if these strategies are on the prevention maps of cities, states, and/or countries. Join AIDS United and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago at the National HIV Prevention Conference, Monday, August 15 5:30-7:00 p.m. in the Hyatt Regency Hotel Roswell Room, to share your perspectives and concerns in this facilitated open discussion and help map pathways to sound decision making. Email zfellows1@aidsunited.org to RSVP.

spacer

back to top

spacer