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Policy Update 5-18-2011
In This Issue...

AIDS United
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Vaccine Awareness Day
Study Shows 96% Reduction in HIV Transmission with Early Initiation of ARV Treatment
Spending Caps and Why They Matter to the HIV/AIDS Community
Government Reaches Federal Debt Limit
Community Transformation Grants Available to Reduce Chronic Disease
HHS Releases Action Plan to Combat Viral Hepatitis
Announcements
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Vaccine Awareness Day

Wednesday, May 18, 2011 is National HIV Vaccine Awareness Day. This annual day provides an opportunity to acknowledge the significant scientific progress towards the development of a safe and effective HIV vaccine and to honor the scientists, health professionals, and clinical trial volunteers that are making that progress possible. Recently there is a renewed sense of hope that a safe and effective HIV vaccine is possible. This is especially meaningful as we approach the 30th year since the first reported cases of the disease that is now known as AIDS. AIDS United joins organizations, governments, and individuals around the world in recognizing HIV Vaccine Awareness Day and calls on everyone to continue to support research to develop a vaccine and other biomedical prevention strategies needed to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

 

Learn more about HIV Vaccine Awareness Day

Learn more about HIV vaccines

Read a statement on Vaccine Awareness Day from Ronald Johnson, AIDS United’s Vice President of Policy and Advocacy

 

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Study Shows 96% Reduction in HIV Transmission with Early Initiation of ARV Treatment

In a recently concluded study by the HIV Prevention Trials Network, HIV transmission among HIV-serodiscordant couples was reduced by 96% when the HIV positive partner took oral antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and when his or her immune system was still relatively healthy. This is the first evidence from a large randomized study that early ARV treatment of an HIV-infected person can reduce the risk of sexual transmission of HIV to an uninfected partner. The findings are a clear demonstration of treatment as prevention. Read more…

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Spending Caps and Why They Matter to the HIV/AIDS Community

Due to the budget processes for Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 and 2012, issues of federal fiscal policy are dominating the news. This article is a continuation of our ongoing coverage on current fiscal policy and how it affects the HIV/AIDS community. For the previous article on the debt ceiling click here.

What are Spending Caps?
In the ongoing debate about deficit reduction, the concept of “spending caps” has emerged as a proposal capable of getting bipartisan support. Spending caps are a mechanism to place limits on government spending, imposing an automatic across the board cut if the cap is breached during the year. This would place a limit on federal spending, regardless of the country’s needs. However, such caps are controversial because they would force enormous cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, and possibly Social Security and the government’s ability to respond to economic fluctuations or national emergencies would be severely restricted. The most prominent of these proposals is the bill by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) which would limit total federal spending to no more than 20.6 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Spending from Fiscal Year 2010 was at 23.8 percent of GDP. A similar type of measure is a balanced budget amendment proposed by Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Mark Udall (D-CO). Balanced budget amendments stipulate that governmental spending cannot exceed the revenue in a given year and often set spending caps as well. The amendment proposed by Senators Shelby and Udall sets a cap at 20 percent of the Gross National Product (GNP) from the previous calendar year.

What does this mean for individuals living with HIV/AIDS?
Spending caps would force massive cuts and restructuring to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security programs and additional cuts to discretionary programs and agencies that affect people living with HIV/AIDS such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Ryan White CARE programs and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA). While many have seen the Corker-McCaskill bill as a conduit to Paul Ryan’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget proposal, in some years the Corker-McCaskill bill would require even deeper spending cuts than proposed by Representative Ryan’s plan. As previously covered, the Ryan budget would be disastrous for individuals with HIV.

The below graph shows how cuts from the Corker-McCaskill bill and cuts from the draconian Ryan Budget would similarly devastate Medicare and Medicaid.

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Indiscriminate caps on federal spending are not a responsible way to reduce the federal debt and could even become counterproductive. For example, reducing funding for prevention and care programs will lead to increased numbers of individuals living with HIV, thus increasing costs and losing lives in the long term. Sound fiscal policy needs to take a holistic and long term view to be effective. AIDS United opposes bills like Corker-McCaskill that include spending caps but that do very little to improve the budget outlook or the lives of Americans.

For more in-depth analysis, read the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities article on what caps would mean for federal spending.

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Government Reaches Federal Debt Limit

As expected, the federal government officially reached the $14.3 trillion debt limit Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner announced on Monday. In a letter to lawmakers from both parties, Geithner said that the government had begun taking “extraordinary measures” in order to avoid defaulting on financial obligations. He continued to project that the government would exhaust their borrowing authority by August 2, giving President Obama and lawmakers until then to reach a budget deal that would raise the limit.

As noted in previous editions of the Policy Update, defaulting on financial obligations would have severe negative consequences on governmental programs that benefit people living with HIV, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Additionally, some Republican lawmakers are attempting to use to necessity of raising the debt limit as leverage to pass budget plans that would drastically cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Read more about the debt limit and what will happen next

Understand what the debt limit is and how it will affect people living with HIV

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Community Transformation Grants Available to Reduce Chronic Disease

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the availability of approximately $102 million in funding for Community Transformation Grants (CTGs) on Friday, May 13th. These grants, authorized under the Affordable Care Act through the Prevention and Public Health Fund, are aimed at helping communities implement projects to reduce chronic disease. The grants will focus on tobacco-free living, active living and healthy eating, evidence-based quality clinical and other preventive services specifically high blood pressure and high cholesterol, social and emotional wellness, especially early identification of mental health needs for people with chronic conditions, and healthy and safe physical environments. They may also address areas of disease prevention and health promotion, including HIV, educational and community-based services, and sexually transmitted diseases. State and local government agencies, tribes, territories, and state and local nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply for the five year grants. The initiative hopes to improve health, reduce health disparities, and lower healthcare costs through preventative care and promoting positive health choices. Applicants must submit a letter of intent by June 6, 2011.

For the funding announcement click here.

To learn more about the grants and how to apply, click here.

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HHS Releases Action Plan to Combat Viral Hepatitis

On Thursday, May 12, the department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched an action plan to prevent and treat viral hepatitis, an epidemic affecting 3.5-5 million Americans. Although viral hepatitis is a leading infectious cause of death in the U.S., many cases go undiagnosed, leading to unnecessarily severe, or even fatal, complications. The new action plan seeks to raise awareness of the disease; to maximize effectiveness of prevention, testing, care, and treatment; and to coordinate the involvement of governments, communities, nongovernmental organizations, health care providers and the private sector.

By 2020, the plan’s stated goals include: increase the number of people who are aware they have hepatitis B from 33 percent to 66 percent; increase the people who are aware they have hepatitis C from 45 percent to 66 percent; reduce new cases of hepatitis C by 25 percent; and eliminate mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B. AIDS United attended the release of the new viral hepatitis action plan and expects that its implementation will strongly compliment efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

Read the HHS press release

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Announcements

Upcoming HIV/AIDS Awareness Days
May 18 - HIV Vaccine Awareness Days
May 19 – National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Webinars
May 18 – The HIV Prevention Justice Alliance – Our Next Steps as a Coalition
May 23 – Using the Media to Strengthen our ADAP Advocacy Efforts (HIV Meds Access Campaign)

Blog
Dr. Ron Valdiserri, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Disease, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, blogs about the Minority AIDS Initiative Secretary’s Fund.
 

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