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Policy Update 8-19-2011
In This Issue...

AIDS United
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Congress is on Recess, but HIV is Not!
AIDS United Publishes State Fact Sheets
It’s August: Time to Contact Your Members of Congress! Again!
Spotlight on an AIDS United Advocate
Report: Statistical Proof that your Communication with Congress Makes a Difference!
Town Hall Tip Sheet and Schedule
The Political is Personal
Announcements
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Congress is on Recess, but HIV is Not!

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Congress is on recess so we can all take a deeeeeep breath and relax for the next couple weeks. Wait, no, scratch that. Now is the time for us as advocates and constituents to prepare ourselves and lay the foundation for future advocacy efforts. This issue of the Policy Update will be filled with ways for you to understand how Congress works and thinks (tasks not to be taken for granted with this Congress) and how to effectively communicate your messages to them. You will find out what modes of communication influence Congressional staffers the most; how Congress REALLY passes a bill as opposed to what we read in our high school civics books and who actually works in the office of a member of Congress; how to get your voice heard at a town hall meeting and where the nearest town hall meetings are to your city; you will hear about the strategies and motivations of a local level HIV/AIDS advocate for taking action on AIDS United’s Action Alerts;  and lastly, we will unveil our new State Fact Sheets -- hot off the press --  which include statistical data on the HIV epidemic for every state and county, which will arm you with  information that resonates with Members about how HIV is affecting your city  and state.


Enjoy, and let your voices be heard!

Ronald Johnson, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy

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AIDS United Publishes State Fact Sheets

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WASHINGTON, D.C. August 19, 2011 – With AIDS United’s newly-published State Fact Sheets, members of Congress, state lawmakers and HIV/AIDS advocates now have access to comprehensive, easy-to-understand information about HIV/AIDS in their states.    The State Fact Sheets were developed for all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia using data sets from federal agencies and state health agencies, and other national and local agencies. They provide new and updated data through 2010  representing the HIV/AIDS epidemic over time, including recent demographic data, FY 2010 Ryan White Program and HIV Prevention funding levels and local in-state contact information. 

Read the rest of AIDS United’s press release here

View the State Fact Sheets here

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It’s August: Time to Contact Your Members of Congress! Again!

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by Bill McColl, Political Director

I know, I know.  Congress is out of Washington and they aren’t taking any immediate actions that will affect people living with HIV.  Everyone is dealing with dried out lawns, tomato crops, vacation plans, broken ACs and it’s too hot to think about politics.  So we can take a break, right?

Actually, no!  AIDS United urges you to continue working to contact your Senators and Representatives but in August we urge you to do it in person.

Why?  Three simple reasons.

Read the rest of Bill McColl’s blog

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Spotlight on an AIDS United Advocate

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AIDS United regularly sends out Action Alerts to urging individuals to contact their legislators to make their voice heard on issues that impact people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS in the United States.  William Booth, from Ohio, has made more phone calls and sent more e-mails in response to AIDS United’s Action Alerts than almost anyone else in the country. AIDS United contacted him recently to find out what his motivations are for acting so consistently on our alerts and what tips he can offer other advocates on how to effectively communicate with Congress.


1. AIDS United: Why do you take action on our alerts?
Willim Booth: I feel that so many people are so ignorant with what is going on in the world as a whole, and I want and feel that I need to a part of what ever that I can do to help out even if I am the only one. 

2. AU: When do you usually respond to an AIDS United Action Alert?
WB: Many of the people who receive your alerts are people with busy schedules, so it might be helpful to them to know how to find the time to makes these calls or send these e-mails.  I usually take action as soon as I get the information, but there are times that there is a need to take the time and "think" about how I want to pass the information or what action that I will take.  The issue that is presented determines what action I will take and how soon.

3. AU: When you don’t take action, what are the reasons? 
WB: At times I am concerned about the action, but I may be dealing with a personal issue(s) that needs to be dealt with at the moment, but I try to pass the information along to others.  Sometimes the information gets to others and sometimes it stops with the next person with whom I share the Alert. 

4. AU: What are your best practices or strategies for sending effective e-mails or making effective phone calls? 
WB: I usually forward the information as written to me or make sure that phone calls are made as soon as possible.  If there is time to set up for other consumers, our advocacy group will set up a phone bank so that members can come to one location and have coaches available with those that are uncomfortable with making phone calls.  We also will assist those with writing e-mails and letters to Congressional representatives.

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Report: Statistical Proof that your Communication with Congress Makes a Difference!

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Some of our advocates out there may question how much influence their phone calls, e-mails, letters, or office visits may have on the process of passing bills and creating policy. The recent debate on raising the debt ceiling should shed some light on the impact we can have. If you were following the debt ceiling discussion closely, you may have noted that very conservative Republican advocates (represented by a minority of House Republicans) were the ones whose voices were actually serving to dictate the direction and tone of negotiations. No matter how you feel about their politics, everyone who watched the news could see that their message was loud and their message was clear.

For those of you who prefer statistical evidence that communication with Congress makes a difference, a report published by the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) offers some proof. Two-hundred and sixty Congressional staffers took a survey regarding their opinions and practices related to constituent communications, including social media. The study shows that:

  • Citizens Have More Power Than They Realize -  Most of the staff surveyed said constituent visits to the Washington office (97%) and to the district/state office (94%) have 'some' or 'a lot' of influence on an undecided Member, more than any other influence group or strategy. When asked about strategies directed to their offices back home, staffers said questions at town hall meetings (87%) and letters to the editor (80%) have 'some' or 'a lot' of influence.
  • It's Not the Delivery Method - It's the Content. There is virtually no distinction by the congressional staff we surveyed between email and postal mail. They view them as equally influential to an undecided Member. Nearly identical percentages of staffers said postal mail (90%) and email (88%) would influence an undecided Member of Congress.
  • Grassroots Advocacy Campaigns - Staff are Conflicted. The congressional staff CMF surveyed have conflicting views and attitudes about the value of grassroots advocacy campaigns. More than one-third of congressional staff (35%) agreed that advocacy campaigns are good for democracy (25% disagreed). Most staff (90%) agreed – and more than 60% strongly agreed – that responding to constituent communications is a high priority in their offices. But, more than half of the staffers surveyed (53%) agreed that most advocacy campaigns of identical form messages are sent without constituents' knowledge or approval.
  • Social Media Used to Listen and Communicate -  Congressional offices are integrating social media tools into their operations, both to gain an understanding of constituents' opinions and to communicate information about the Member's views. Nearly two-thirds of staff surveyed (64%) think Facebook is an important way to understand constituents' views and nearly three-quarters (74%) think it is important for communicating their Member's views.

Read the whole report here!

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Town Hall Tip Sheet and Schedule

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As is indicated from the study cited above, town hall meetings are one of the best ways to get your Congressional representatives to take note of your opinions and concerns as well as respond to your questions. AIDS United has put together a tip sheet to help you get the most out of your experience interacting with your representatives at a town hall meeting. Please refer to the schedule of town hall meetings that is constantly updated to find the meeting nearest to you!

Town hall tip sheet

Schedule of town hall meetings

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The Political is Personal

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by Julia Cheng, Pedro Zamora Fellow

Read the departing blog from AIDS United’s Pedro Zamora Fellow of the last 8 months, Julia Cheng, in which she talks about what she will carry forward from her background growing up in Mississippi and her time as a public policy advocate in Washington DC to her next life step: a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya.

Read Julia’s blog

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Announcements

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Regional Field Organizer (3 Positions Available)
National HIV/AIDS philanthropic organization seeks three (3) Regional Field Organizers to work with its grantees, partners, and allies to implement a coordinated national organizing strategy to mobilize grassroots state and federal HIV/AIDS-related advocacy to achieve the National HIV/AIDS Strategy goals--reduction in HIV incidence; increase in access to care and improvement of health outcomes for people living with HIV/AIDS; and reduction of HIV-related health disparities.  Regional Field Organizers will be located in Texas, Washington DC, and the Southeast U.S.

Read more about the Regional Field Organizer position

Sign on to show support for increased funding for ADAP in Fiscal Year 2012!
State AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) across the country are in crisis.   Nearly 9,000 individuals are on wait lists and many states have instituted cost-containment measures such as reduced formularies and enrollment caps.  Join the ADAP Coalition's letter to Senate Appropriators calling for a $106 million increase in FY2012 to help alleviate this crisis.  Please email Daniella Yaloz at dyaloz@nastad.org by Wednesday, August 24th to add your organization.

"My PrEP Experience" - Personal Stories from PrEP Users
"My PrEP Experience" is a collection of stories - video and written - from people who have chosen to use PrEP as one way to protect themselves from HIV. This series "lives" on the gay men's health blog LifeLube - which may not be safe for all work environments (friendly warning.)

Click here - http://lifelube.blogspot.com/search/label/My%20PrEP%20Experience - to pull up all the My PrEP Experience posts uploaded to date (total = three), from individuals sharing their personal PrEP experiences.

Also, if you haven’t already, please take the time to sign on to a letter that supports a debate on PrEP based on facts and not misinformation. 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!

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