NMAC on the Hill: February 22, 2011

NMAC on the Hill
NMAC wants to make sure that our constituents are up to date on the latest activities in Congress and around Washington, DC that affect HIV/AIDS programs, funding, and the broader movement. To accomplish this, we will be sending regular updates on legislation, meetings and other happenings in the nation’s capital to keep you informed on what matters to our community.

President’s 2012 Budget Request
Last week, President Obama released his 2012 budget request. In it, the president maintained all current funding levels for the majority of HIV/AIDS programs, with increased funding requests for the Department of Health and Human Services as well as an additional $80 million for Ryan White AIDS Drug Assistance Programs.

Read more about HIV/AIDS funding and the president’s budget request here.

Read NMAC’s statement on the president’s budget request here.

2011 Congressional Budget Battle
For the last two weeks, the House of Representatives has been engaged in a battle surrounding legislation that would fund the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, known as a Continuing Resolution (CR). Republicans in the House are attempting to slash billions of dollars from so-called discretionary spending, much of it from programs that are critical to people living with HIV/AIDS. The proposals include massive cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Community Health Centers and many others.

Read NMAC’s statement on the proposed cuts here.

Last week, the House also voted to strip all federal funding for Planned Parenthood programs. This would have a devastating affect on the organization’s ability to provide critical sexual and reproductive health services, including HIV and STI screenings, to millions of low-income women across the country.

Read NMAC’s statement on this effort to defund Planned Parenthood here.

Obama Administration to Halt Defense of Federal Defense of Marriage Act in Court
On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced, in a letter to Congress, that the Justice Department will no longer argue in support of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. The president’s press secretary, Jay Carney, stated that President Obama believes that the law is unconstitutional, while stopping short of endorsing same-sex marriage itself.

There are currently two lawsuits working their way through the First and Second Circuit Courts of Appeal seeking to overturn DOMA. Eliminating discriminatory policies such as DOMA and ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ go a long way in reducing the stigma associated with being gay or bisexual, and in turn reduces the probability that MSM will engage in risky sexual behavior or drug use.

Read more about the President’s decision on DOMA in the New York Times here.

Surgeon General Backs Needle Exchange Prevention Efforts
Last week, the Surgeon General of the United States Regina Benjamin, officially acknowledged the efficacy of needle exchange programs or syringe service programs (SSPs) in reducing HIV infections among intravenous drug users and encouraging entry into drug rehabilitation programs. In a federal register notice, the Surgeon General stated that “a demonstration needle exchange program…would be effective in reducing drug abuse and the risk of infection with the etiologic agent for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. This determination reflects the scientific evidence supporting the important public health benefit of SSPs.”

Dr. Benjamin’s determination lays the legal foundation for the use of federal block grant funds for needle exchange programs. This is especially important as we work with Congress to ensure that evidence-based prevention efforts, including SSPs, receive adequate federal funding.

For more information on SSPs, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s website here.

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About NMAC
The National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) builds leadership within communities of color to address challenges of HIV/AIDS. Since 1987, NMAC has advanced this mission through a variety of programs and services, including: a public policy education program, national and regional training conferences, a treatment and research program, numerous publications and a website: http://www.nmac.org/. Today, NMAC is an association of AIDS service organizations providing valuable information to community-based organizations, hospitals, clinics and other groups assisting individuals and families affected by the AIDS epidemic. NMAC’s advocacy efforts are funded through private funders and donors only.

For more information, call NMAC directly at (202) 483-NMAC (6622) or communications@nmac.org.

Visit the agency online at http://www.nmac.org/, as well as on http://www.facebook.com/ and on http://www.wikipedia.com/.

Pictures and video clips from past NMAC events are available from Flickr, and YouTube.

About NMAC on the Hill
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