HHS Shares Tips for Consumers Visiting HealthCare.Gov

Shared from the HHS

 

As we continue working around the clock to improve HealthCare.gov and the holiday shopping season kicks into gear, we wanted to share some consumer friendly tips for individuals looking for quality affordable health insurance.

  • Shop HealthCare.gov during off-peak hours (mornings/nights/weekends).
  • Have your income and tax information ready when you log on.
  • Comparison shop to get the best deal.
  • You have until December 23 to get coverage starting January 1, 2014 – and until March 31st to get coverage in 2014.
  • If you need to talk to someone, use the call center: 1-800-318-2596. Reps are available 24/7, in 150 different languages.
  • And you can also find in-person help in your area: localhelp.healthcare.gov

We continue to work every day to ensure that every American who wants affordable health insurance has access to these new, quality coverage options — and hope these new tips are helpful to consumers seeking coverage in the days, weeks and months ahead.

NIH announces plan to increase funding toward a cure for HIV/AIDS

Shared from NIH.GOV

 

At a White House event today to mark the 25th annual World AIDS Day, President Obama announced that the National Institutes of Health plans to redirect AIDS research funds to expand support for research directed toward a cure for HIV. NIH plans to invest an additional $100 million over the next three fiscal years on this increasingly promising area of HIV/AIDS research.

In the three decades since AIDS was first reported, the NIH has been the global leader in research to understand, prevent, diagnose, and treat HIV infection and its many associated conditions. NIH-funded researchers — in partnership with academia and the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries — have helped develop more than 30 life-saving antiretroviral drugs and drug combinations for treating HIV infection. These antiretroviral drugs have transformed life with HIV infection for those who have access to and can tolerate the therapies. However, treatment requires lifelong access and adherence to these medications and management of treatment-related toxicities and clinical complications.

Important recent advances in basic and therapeutics research aimed at eliminating viral reservoirs in the body are spurring scientists to design and conduct research aimed at a cure or lifelong remission of HIV infection. Key stakeholders from academia, government, foundations, advocacy groups and industry have concluded that developing a cure for HIV is one of the most important biomedical challenges of the 21st century. This will require an extraordinary, collaborative global effort, including public-private partnerships and innovative alliances to share scientific expertise and accelerate the search for a cure.

In a presentation at the White House event today, Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the component of NIH with the largest investment in HIV/AIDS research, discussed the public health and scientific rationale for expanded research in this area.

“Although the HIV/AIDS pandemic can theoretically be ended with a concerted and sustained scale-up of implementation of existing tools for HIV prevention and treatment, the development of a cure is critically important, as it may not be feasible for tens of millions of people living with HIV infection to access and adhere to a lifetime of antiretroviral therapy,” Dr. Fauci noted. “Our growing understanding of the cellular hiding places or ‘reservoirs’ of HIV, the development of new strategies to minimize or deplete these reservoirs, and encouraging reports of a small number of patients who have little or no evidence of virus despite having halted antiretroviral therapy, all suggest that the time is ripe to pursue HIV cure research with vigor.”

Funding for these new initiatives will come from existing resources and a redirection of funds from expiring AIDS research grants over the next three years. NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., said, “Flat budgets and cuts from sequestration have had a profound and damaging impact on biomedical research, but we must continue to find ways to support cutting-edge science, even in this environment. AIDS research is an example of an area where hard-won progress over many years has resulted in new and exciting possibilities in basic and clinical science in AIDS that must be pursued.”

Jack Whitescarver, Ph.D., director of the Office of AIDS Research, a component of the Office of the Director of NIH, said, “We have listened very carefully to the scientific consensus of experts from within the NIH and around the world. We have been building the portfolio of HIV cure research over the past few years, and now is the time to accelerate our research focused specifically toward the goal of sustained or lifelong remission, in which patients control or even eliminate HIV without the need for lifelong antiretroviral therapy.”

It is anticipated that a significant portion of the new investment will support basic research, which will also benefit all other areas of AIDS research, as well as research on other diseases. These studies will include research on viral reservoirs, viral latency, and viral persistence, as well as studies of neutralizing antibodies. Research on animal models, drug development and preclinical testing of more potent antiretroviral compounds capable of diminishing viral reservoirs, and clinical research, including studies on therapeutic vaccines and other immune enhancers, will also be supported.

Other high-priority AIDS research will continue to be supported. These priorities include: prevention research, including vaccines, microbicides, and other biomedical and behavioral prevention strategies, such as the use of antiretroviral drugs as prevention; research to develop better, less toxic treatments and to investigate how genetic determinants, sex, gender, race, age, nutritional status, treatment during pregnancy, and other factors, including stigma and adherence, interact to affect treatment success or failure and/or disease progression; and studies to address the increased incidence of malignancies, cardiovascular, neurologic, and metabolic complications, and premature aging associated with long-term HIV disease and antiretroviral treatment. Through all of this research, NIH is committed to the ultimate goal of a world without AIDS.

NIAID conducts and supports research — at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide — to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov.

The Office of AIDS Research, part of the Office of the Director, plans and coordinates the scientific, budgetary, legislative and policy elements of the NIH AIDS research program. Additional information, including the trans-NIH strategic plan and budget, is available at http://www.oar.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

Striving for the AIDS End Game: Translating Research Promise Into Public Health Success

Shared from the Huffington Post

 

Dec. 1, 2013 marks the 25th annual commemoration of World AIDS Day. In highlighting this day, partners in the fight against HIV/AIDS will champion bold goals, such as “ending AIDS” and “getting to zero.” With the sober recognition that 35.3 million people are living with HIV/AIDS today, these goals may seem unattainable, perhaps even fanciful to some. Although they will, without a doubt, be difficult to achieve, they are the correct aspirational goals to set forth. Every biomedical discovery, public health program, community-based solution, and demonstration of political will should be focused toward the attainment of these ambitious goals. Through concerted, cooperative and sustained effort, we can strive toward an AIDS-free reality. In that pursuit, even if total elimination eludes us, at the very least much suffering will be averted and the health and economic well-being of people, families, communities and entire nations will be boosted.

We can reduce and move toward elimination of new infections with the expanded combination prevention “tool kit” that biomedical research and public health practices have provided. When HIV transmission was first understood, public health prevention messages were limited for the most part to promotion of condom usage and safe injection practices. Today, expectant HIV-infected mothers can virtually eliminate the risk of transmission to their newborns with proper use of antiretroviral medications. In this regard, antiretroviral treatment lowers HIV burden to extremely low levels; among heterosexual partners in which one partner is infected and the other is not, early treatment of the infected partner has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV transmission to uninfected sexual partners by 96 percent. At-risk uninfected individuals can protect themselves from HIV infection using pre-exposure prophylaxis, whereby individuals take a daily antiretroviral therapy pill to prevent infection. Another strategy is built on the observation that circumcised men had lower rates of HIV than uncircumcised men, and clinical trials and real world studies of voluntary adult male medically-supervised circumcision have demonstrated a 50-75 percent reduction in the risk of infection among circumcised men that has been sustained over several years. These prevention tools, combined with public health programs that promote their acceptance and adherence can substantially reduce new infections. However, failure of these two latter factors often creates stumbling blocks in achieving maximal effectiveness.

The global AIDS community must better understand the social factors that drive individual acceptance of and adherence to prevention modalities and treatment. Specifically, in addition to a nuanced understanding of financial and cultural barriers to care, stigma and discrimination must be systematically addressed. For example, in certain settings in the United States, condoms are used by law enforcement officials as forensic evidence of commercial sex work, complicating promotion of safe sex. Around the world, homosexuality is illegal in 76 countries and highly stigmatized in many more. These egregious examples of institutional discrimination, and the individual discrimination that invariably accompanies it, must be eliminated.

Although existing prevention methods paired with stigma reduction can help reduce new infections, these gains must be sustained for generations to come. To accomplish this, an HIV vaccine remains an important tool. Vaccination offers the ability to prevent infection at the population level without reliance on continual adherence to interventions at the individual level. Thus, pursuit of a vaccine remains a top priority for the scientific and global health community. Following years of disappointments, a large clinical trial in Thailand showed a 31 percent reduction in infection among vaccinated people. This response was encouraging, but recent scientific advances indicate that more robust results may be possible. Specifically, new insights into broadly neutralizing antibodies that powerfully block HIV entry into cells and into more effective cellular immune responses have reinvigorated the quest for an HIV vaccine. With the promise of such advances and other prevention tools available today, the rate of new HIV cases can be dramatically reduced, and hopefully ultimately eliminated.

Even if incidence of new infections is dramatically reduced, the global AIDS response must continue to address the needs of the 35.3 million individuals living with HIV/AIDS around the world. A handful of recent cases have highlighted the possibility of “cure,” or sustained remission, whereby patients can control or perhaps even eliminate HIV without daily drug therapy. Notwithstanding the possibility of therapy-free sustained remissions, disease progression can largely be stopped with existing antiretroviral drugs widely available today. In other words, by treating individuals, the global AIDS community can strive toward the elimination of AIDS morbidity and mortality. To do so, availability of effective antiretroviral therapy must be expanded in accordance with the World Health Organization’s treatment guidelines, which will require bolstering of human and financial resources, paired with implementation expertise. Gaps must be closed in the care continuum from diagnosis, to entry into health care, to retention in care, and to initiation and maintenance of treatment. Issues related to access to and delivery of health care, as well as social, behavioral and economic factors (among others) need to be addressed as well. In addition, the long-term comorbidities of HIV infection, i.e., associated diseases that are more frequent, premature, and/or serious in HIV-infected individuals, must be better understood and addressed.

Finally, to control this epidemic and strive toward its end, effective interventions must be paired with political will and economic resources. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Clinton Health Access Initiative and other programs have made remarkable strides in fighting HIV/AIDS by smartly investing dollars in targeted, proven interventions, and working with partners at the international, regional, national and local levels around the world. These programs save lives — according to UNAIDS, from 1995 to 2012, antiretroviral therapy averted 6.6 million AIDS-related deaths worldwide, including 5.5 million deaths in low- and middle-income countries.

The collective efforts of health care practitioners, patients and researchers around the world have brought new promise to the decades-long fight against HIV/AIDS. By sustaining and accelerating this fight, and striving toward the “end of AIDS,” lives can be saved and suffering averted for decades to come.

NIH Statement on World AIDS Day 2013

Shared from NIAID

 

In the 25 years that have passed since the first annual commemoration of World AIDS Day, extraordinary scientific progress has been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS. That progress has turned an HIV diagnosis from an almost-certain death sentence to what is now for many, a manageable medical condition and nearly normal lifespan. We have come far, yet not far enough.

In 2012, more than 2 million new HIV infections and 1.6 million AIDS-related deaths occurred globally. Although these numbers represent a decline from previous years, they also reflect a grim reality: far too many people become HIV-infected and die from the effects of the disease. On World AIDS Day, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reaffirms its commitment to finding improved HIV treatments and tools for preventing infection (including a vaccine), addressing the conditions and diseases associated with long-term HIV infection, and, ultimately, finding a cure.

Over the years since HIV was established as the cause of AIDS, NIH-funded researchers—in partnership with academia and the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries—have developed more than 30 life-saving antiretroviral drugs and drug combinations for treating HIV infection. Moreover, as the landmark HPTN 052 clinical trial proved, antiretroviral treatment can also effectively prevent HIV transmission by lowering the amount of virus in infected individuals, thereby making them less able to transmit the virus to their sexual partners. Today, we are working to improve upon these medicines by developing drugs that are longer-acting, simpler to use, and with fewer side effects. Further, NIH scientists and grantees are exploring the administration of anti-HIV antibodies as a way to treat infection. This approach was recently shown to be effective when used in monkeys infected with a genetically engineered version of simian HIV.  Additionally, NIH researchers have begun early stage human testing of a monoclonal antibody (called VRC01), which in the laboratory, protected human cells against infection by more than 90 percent of known HIV strains.

However, advances in antiretroviral therapy or the discovery of new treatments are of little value if HIV-infected individuals do not know they are infected, do not have adequate access to HIV treatment and the necessary medical care to control their virus levels, or do not adhere to their treatment regimen. For example, of the 1.1 million people living with HIV infection in the United States, only 25 percent receive ongoing medical care and have virus levels that are adequately controlled by taking antiretroviral medications as prescribed. The NIH is funding studies in the United States and internationally to explore new approaches to addressing this problem. The HPTN 065 study (also known as TLC-Plus), is assessing the feasibility of conducting widespread voluntary HIV testing, linking HIV-infected individuals to care and antiretroviral treatment, and providing incentives to individuals to adhere to treatment. The study is being conducted in New York City, and Washington, D.C.—both of which have communities at greater than average risk of HIV infection. Internationally, the recently launched HPTN 071 study, also called PopART, is examining whether offering expanded voluntary HIV testing along with enhanced delivery of antiretroviral treatment and prevention services can substantially reduce the number of new infections in South Africa and Zambia. The study will involve 21 communities and 1.2 million people in those countries.

NIH-funded research has proven the effectiveness of such HIV prevention strategies as voluntary medical adult male circumcision and pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP (taking a daily antiretroviral pill to prevent HIV acquisition). In order to be effective, these strategies must be used consistently under strict guidelines. NIH supports behavioral and social science research designed to better understand how to foster adherence to medications, promote acceptance and overcome barriers to the use of effective HIV prevention tools.

The NIH also continues to investigate new HIV prevention tools for those groups most at risk for HIV infection, including women and men who have sex with men. The multinational ASPIRE clinical trial, launched in 2012, is testing whether a vaginal ring containing the experimental antiretroviral drug dapivirine can prevent HIV infection in women. The recently launched MTN 017 clinical trialExternal Web Site Policy is examining the safety of a rectally applied gel containing the antiretroviral drug tenofovir for men who have sex with men.

A cornerstone of our HIV prevention efforts continues to be the search for a safe and effective vaccine. The pathway to an effective HIV vaccine has been challenging and marked by disappointments; however, basic research advances this year are charting the course for a new generation of investigational HIV vaccines. Through the work of NIH scientists and grantees, we have gained insights into how HIV and a strong antibody response to the virus co-evolve in an infected person and improved our understanding of how B-cells create potentially protective immune system responses. Further, NIH-funded researchers have developed a new tool for identifying broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV that could help speed vaccine research and illuminated in exquisite detail the protein largely responsible for enabling HIV to enter human immune cells and cause infection.

Additionally, ongoing analyses of the landmark RV 144 HIV vaccine trial conducted in Thailand are providing important information about human immune responses and other factors that may explain why the investigational vaccine regimen reduced the risk of HIV acquisition by 31 percent. Large-scale investigational clinical trials to build on the RV 144 results are being planned for South Africa and Thailand.

We have reached the point when the thought of an HIV cure is not unrealistic. Several cases, including that of a toddler, have demonstrated the possibility of sustained remission, in which patients control or perhaps even eliminate HIV without the need for a lifetime of daily antiretroviral therapy. NIH continues to focus on the important area of research toward a cure through basic science and clinical testing that is underway or in development.

On this World AIDS Day, we take stock of what has been achieved and look forward to what can be accomplished in the near future toward the universally shared goal of ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic.


Media inquiries can be directed to the NIAID Office of Communications at 301-402-1663, niaidnews@niaid.nih.gov.

NIAID conducts and supports research—at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide—to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov.

The Office of the Director, the central office at NIH, is responsible for setting policy for NIH, which includes 27 Institutes and Centers. This involves planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all NIH components. The Office of the Director also includes program offices which are responsible for stimulating specific areas of research throughout NIH. Additional information is available at http://www.nih.gov/icd/od/.

The Office of AIDS Research, part of the Office of the Director, plans and coordinates the scientific, budgetary, legislative and policy elements of the NIH AIDS research program. Additional information, including the trans-NIH strategic plan and budget, is available at http://www.oar.nih.gov/.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health®

Closer Than Ever to An AIDS-Free Generation

Shared from The Huffington Post

 

As CDC Director, I’ve had the privilege of meeting with nurses, doctors, outreach workers, and people living with HIV in communities across the U.S. and around the world.

As an infectious disease doctor who trained in New York City before treatment for HIV was available, these meetings are always deeply moving. Together we’ve made enormous progress addressing the suffering and death caused by this fearsomely deadly virus.

Today is World AIDS Day, the worldwide reminder that we must all continue the fight against HIV.

This year’s theme, “Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation,” reflects our global commitment to achieving President Obama’s vision of an AIDS-free generation.

We’ve made remarkable progress since the launch of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief — PEPFAR — in 2003.

In June, CDC, together with our sister PEPFAR implementing agencies, achieved a dramatic milestone: the prevention of HIV infection in one million babies globally over the past ten years.

I will never forget the woman I met in Nigeria holding twin babies in her arms. She said to me, “I’m HIV positive, but my babies are HIV negative because of PEPFAR. Please thank the American people for me.”

New HIV infections are declining globally and life expectancy is rebounding in many countries. Because of PEPFAR, more than 5 million HIV-positive people are working, studying, teaching, learning — contributing to their communities — who would otherwise be dead or dying.

More people than ever are aware of their HIV infection status, and that means more people living with HIV can take steps to stay healthy and protect their partners, including by taking antiretroviral treatment.

The heart of what CDC brings to the fight is our ability to share our science and innovation to build capacity across the globe.

From Atlanta and field offices in more than 50 countries, we work alongside our host country and international partners. We have 1,800 people working in the field, the vast majority hired from the local communities. They provide technical assistance, consultation, mentoring, and training in Asia, South America, Africa, and the Caribbean. It’s a huge footprint that makes a real difference across the globe.

We’re helping build systems with the essential components of public health: laboratories, surveillance systems, trained staff, and data systems that can monitor projects and programs, not only for progress, but to ensure maximum impact.

It’s building capacity from the inside out.

In the United States, efforts to curb the HIV/AIDS pandemic through testing, education, prevention, care, and treatment are bolstered by new evidence that antiviral treatment greatly reduces risk of spread of HIV.

On this World AIDS Day, CDC continues to bring the best prevention and treatment tools at our disposal to the communities that need them most.

We’re closer today than ever to reaching the goal of an AIDS-free generation, and that’s reason to celebrate. But more importantly, it’s reason to dedicate ourselves even more to scaling up what works to stop the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

World AIDS Day 2013—Addiction Treatment Supports AIDS Treatment

Shared from Nora’s Blog

 

December 1 is World AIDS Day. At NIDA, we always stress the principle that drug abuse treatment is AIDS prevention, because of the close links that exist between drug abuse and the spread of HIV.  Injection drug use alone contributed to more than 7% of new infections in 2011, although the population of people who use drugs by any route who are also HIV-positive is much higher. Drug use goes hand-in-hand with various behaviors besides needle-sharing that place individuals at risk for HIV infection, such as unprotected sex.

Panels from the AIDS Memorial QuiltNIDA displays panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt

A new study by researchers in Vancouver, British Columbia shows that, beyond the benefits of drug addiction treatment in HIV prevention, it also supports HIV treatment. Drug users face numerous unique challenges that contribute to poorer outcomes from HIV infection. The Canadian study found that, in the absence of financial and other barriers preventing access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) regimens, opioid-dependent individuals engaged in methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) were less likely to discontinue ART than those not engaged in MMT and were more likely to achieve suppressed viral loads.

This study shows that investment in drug treatment improves a crucial step in the HIV Care Continuum: helping people stay in care—since HIV treatment is a lifelong process until a cure is found. By treating drug dependence, a person is benefiting not only from a lifestyle free of illicit drug use but from one that is less compromised by HIV because remaining on ART will be more likely. The benefits of delivering addiction treatment to HIV-positive drug users could also extend to the community, by reducing the likelihood of HIV transmission to others.

We have done much to reduce the spread of HIV, but there are still approximately 50,000 new HIV infections each year, and at the end of 2010, an estimated 872,990 people in the United States were living with an HIV diagnosis. World AIDS Day is an occasion to renew our commitment to reducing the scourge of AIDS and curbing the spread of HIV. The Canadian study is a reminder that drug addiction treatment is an intrinsic part of those goals.

World AIDS Day Remarks

Shared from the US Department of State

 

On World AIDS Day, we come together as a global community to honor the many lives we have lost, and to reaffirm our support for the millions of individuals and families who are still living with and affected by HIV/AIDS around the world.

On this day, we also gain strength by celebrating the important strides that we have taken over the past year, and recommit ourselves to the work still ahead to achieve an AIDS-free generation.

This year marks an extraordinary decade of progress. Ten years ago, when the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was launched by President Bush and with strong bipartisan support of the U.S. Congress, an AIDS diagnosis was a virtual death sentence in much of Africa. The epidemic was threatening the very foundation of societies – creating millions of orphans, stalling economic development, and leaving countries stuck in poverty.

Today, landmark scientific advances, coupled with success in implementing effective programs have put an AIDS-free generation within sight. In sub-Saharan Africa, where the epidemic has hit the hardest, new HIV infections are down by nearly 40 percent since 2001, and AIDS-related mortality has declined by nearly one-third since 2005. This progress is thanks in large part to the unique efforts of and partnership between PEPFAR, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and host countries.

The United States is proud of its longstanding leadership role in these efforts. Through research, funding, direct support for HIV services, we have always led by example in this fight, and asked others to join us.

This June, in marking PEPFAR’s tenth anniversary, I was pleased to announce the one-millionth baby born HIV-free due to PEPFAR-supported prevention of mother-to-child transmission programs. I also was greatly encouraged to report that 13 countries (including 11 in sub-Saharan Africa) have now reached the programmatic “tipping point” in their AIDS epidemic – the point where the annual increase in adults on treatment is greater than the number of annual new adult HIV infections.

And in September, I was honored to host a session with top African leaders and senior global health stakeholders to launch the innovative concept of PEPFAR Country Health Partnerships with South Africa, Rwanda, and Namibia, which will further our efforts to advance country ownership and strengthen sustainability. These successes were further amplified by the U.S. Congress’ bi-partisan and bi-cameral effort in the passage of the PEPFAR Stewardship and Oversight Act on November 19.

The Act reaffirms the United States’ continued commitment to this historic health program and to the fight against global AIDS.

Achieving an AIDS-free generation is a shared responsibility. Partnerships with host government, civil society, the faith community, the private sector, and multilateral organizations are vital to a robust and sustained global AIDS response.

On this World AIDS Day, as we reflect on the extraordinary progress we have made together, it is important to remember that our work is far from finished.

With a sustained focus on strengthened results and shared responsibility, I know that we can get there.

Justice Department Settles with South Carolina Department of Corrections to End Discrimination Against Inmates with HIV

Shared from the U.S. Department of Justice

The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement with the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) and its director, to resolve alleged violations of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504).  The agreement, filed today along with a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, resolves the department’s investigation of SCDC policies and practices of segregating inmates with HIV/AIDS (HIV) and denying them the opportunity to participate equally in services, programs and activities.

 

The department’s investigation found that, under policies implemented in the late 1990s, SCDC unnecessarily segregates all inmates with HIV in two of SCDC’s highest security prisons, regardless of their individual security classification.  There are currently approximately 350 male and female inmates with HIV who are segregated in SCDC’s highest security prisons solely on the basis of their HIV-positive status.  SCDC further segregates inmates with HIV to “HIV-only” dorms in these two high security prisons and the inmates are required to wear clothing and badges that identify their dorms and effectively disclose their HIV status to other inmates, correctional staff and visitors.  Because certain programs are not provided at the two prisons, inmates with HIV are unable to participate in a variety of SCDC’s programs, such as drug treatment, work release, pre-release preparation, intermediate psychiatric care and SCDC jobs that are available to other inmates without HIV.

 

“With this consent decree, SCDC joins 49 other state correctional systems that recognize that  individuals with HIV are entitled to equal treatment under the law.  Science and longstanding experience have demonstrated that HIV, alone, is not a basis for segregation from the general population without an individualized assessment of the inmate’s circumstances,” said Jocelyn Samuels Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division,  “We applaud SCDC’s efforts to close this final chapter of illegal segregation of inmates based on HIV and, to instead commit to the integration of current and future inmates with HIV, based on their individual circumstances, individualized assessment and classification level.”

 

“I am proud that this office had the opportunity to work with the Department of Justice and the state of South Carolina in addressing this issue,” said William Nettles, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina. “This consent decree will put us all on the right side of history.”

 

Title II of the ADA and Section 504 prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities, including people with HIV.  Discrimination includes unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities as well as excluding people with disabilities from programs or providing unequal access to people with disabilities.  While Title II of the ADA provides that public entities, such as correctional institutions, may impose legitimate safety requirements necessary for the safe operation of their services, programs or activities, the requirements must be based on actual risks, not on mere speculation, stereotypes, or generalizations about people with disabilities.  The Department of Justice found that SCDC’s segregation policies were based on generalizations and stereotypes about HIV, not on actual risks.  No other U.S. state prison system continues to segregate inmates based solely on their HIV positive status; in fact, a court recently invalidated an Alabama policy that, similar to that of South Carolina,  segregated inmates with HIV from the general population.

 

Under the terms of the consent decree, SCDC and its director will implement policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, including HIV in particular.  SCDC will revoke all policies that separate or segregate inmates with HIV, solely on the basis of HIV and regardless of security classification status.  Additionally, inmates with HIV who are currently housed in the SCDC’s two high security prisons will have an opportunity to choose new housing options based on the SCDC’s classification system and without regard to HIV.

 

SCDC inmates with HIV will also have the opportunity to participate in any programs for which they are otherwise qualified such as drug treatment, work release, pre-release preparation, intermediate psychiatric care, youthful offender programs, re-entry and food service jobs in the cafeteria and canteen. Inmates with HIV who have already been segregated and denied such opportunities will be given priority access to those programs under a plan to be developed by SCDC.

 

To read the consent decree and complaint or for more information on the ADA and HIV, visit www.ada.gov/aids .   Those interested in finding out more about this settlement or the obligations of public entities under the ADA may call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD), or access its ADA website at www.ada.gov .  ADA complaints may be filed by email to ada.complaint@usdoj.gov .

Statement by the President on the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act

Shared from whitehouse.gov

 

Earlier today, I signed into law the HIV Organ Policy Equity (HOPE) Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that allows scientists to carry out research into organ donations from one person with HIV to another.  For decades, these organ transplants have been illegal. It was even illegal to study whether they could be safe and effective.  But as our understanding of HIV and effective treatments have grown, that policy has become outdated.  The potential for successful organ transplants between people living with HIV has become more of a possibility.  The HOPE Act lifts the research ban, and, in time, it could lead to live-saving organ donations for people living with HIV while ensuring the safety of the organ transplant process and strengthening the national supply of organs for all who need them.

Improving care for people living with HIV is critical to fighting the epidemic, and it’s a key goal of my National HIV/AIDS Strategy.  The HOPE Act marks an important step in the right direction, and I thank Congress for their action.

World AIDS Day 2013: A statement by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

Shared from the HHS

 

 

When the World Health Organization established the first World AIDS Day on December 1, 1988, treatment options for people living with HIV were practically nonexistent, and AIDS was almost invariably fatal. Hope was in short supply, and there seemed to be little reason for optimism. I am grateful that the world is a very different place for the 25th annual World AIDS Day.

Thanks to tremendous advances in our understanding of the disease and how to treat it, millions of individuals, both in the U.S. and around the globe, are now truly living with HIV.

As we observe World AIDS Day 2013 under the Federal theme of Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation, we reflect on U.S. led initiatives that have helped bring about this dramatic change. We rededicate ourselves to working with our partners across the nation and around the globe to fortify and intensify our efforts in HIV prevention, testing, care and treatment, and research.

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is marking its 10th anniversary of leadership in the global response to HIV.  PEPFAR now directly supports life-saving antiretroviral treatment for millions of men, women, and children worldwide. Together with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and partner nations, we are working toward an AIDS-free generation around the world.

Here in the U.S., guided by the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, (NHAS), agencies and offices across the Department of Health and Human Services are working to strengthen HIV prevention, care and treatment efforts. As President Obama directed earlier this year when he established the HIV Care Continuum Initiative, we are accelerating efforts to increase HIV testing as well as improve access to and retention in HIV care. That way, we can better address drop-offs along the continuum of HIV care, from diagnosis to receiving optimal treatment. Fewer than half of the people living with HIV are getting the medical care they need, and only about 25 percent have achieved control over their HIV infection with medication. Such control both benefits their health and reduces the likelihood of HIV transmission.

So, we still have much to do.

The Affordable Care Act provides critical support to help us reach these goals. The health care law makes it illegal (already for children, and in 2014 for adults) for insurance companies to deny anyone coverage because they have HIV; eliminates lifetime benefit caps and starting in 2014, annual dollar limits; and generally requires health insurance plans to cover HIV testing and other preventive services such as domestic violence and STI screening and counseling, without any additional out-of-pocket costs to the patient. It also authorizes states to expand Medicaid eligibility, which would extend coverage to more people living with HIV.

The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program remains a vital element of our national response to HIV, supporting critical efforts to engage and retain clients in care and demonstrating improved health outcomes for those clients across the HIV care continuum. Similarly, other HHS programs—including CDC’s HIV prevention activities, NIH’s HIV research, FDA’s regulation of HIV medicines, tests and devices, and many other activities—all remain essential parts of our response to HIV. We are grateful to the dedicated HHS personnel working to advance these efforts and all of our non-federal partners for their innovation, persistence, and passion.

Finally, I am pleased to note an improved tool in our response: an updated, more user-friendly Common Patient Assistance Program Application (CPAPA). The form allows uninsured low-income people living with HIV who do not qualify for insurance or other assistance to fill out a single form to apply for life-saving HIV drugs from multiple patient-assistance programs.  This simplified process is the result of a public-private partnership involving HHS, pharmaceutical companies, the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, and community stakeholders.

As we observe this 25th World AIDS Day, hope and optimism are thankfully no longer in short supply. Please join us in this global observance by learning more about HIV/AIDS in your community and how you can be part of the movement to create an AIDS-free generation and help to bring an end to this global health crisis.

You can find ways to get involved by visiting CDC’s Let’s Stop HIV Together website or learning about AIDS.gov’s Facing AIDS campaign, which invites you to help reduce HIV-related stigma and promote HIV testing by putting a face to AIDS.

We can all make a difference.  Here at HHS we are commemorating World AIDS Day through multiple activities, including offering HIV testing to employees and supporting staff who are volunteering with local HIV service providers.