In the case of Braidwood vs. Becerra, US District Judge Reed O’Connor dropped another hurdle in the war against HIV prevention. He ruled that the Religious Freedom Act gives businesses the right to deny paying for health coverage for HIV PrEP and STD services targeting gay men. He went further to halt all prevention coverage that was approved by the US Prevention Services Task Force. The next day, the Biden administration filed a notice to appeal at the 5th circuit court. Since this is the same court that was used to overturn Roe v Wade, I worry what this court will say. If history is any indication, HIV PrEP and the US Prevention Services Task Force are on their way to the Supreme Court.
Immediately, I called the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to discuss next steps. This is a humble brag, but it is important for our movement to know that NMAC and many other DC colleagues have the juice to not only call but also get answers. The day after the ruling, the Partnership to End the Epidemics zoomed with AIDS Czar Harold Phillips and Christen Young, Deputy Director, Domestic Policy Council for Health and Veterans.
Here are top line messages regarding Braidwood:
- This case is yet another attack on the Affordable Care Act – which has been the law of the land for 13 years. As you know, the Supreme Court has upheld the legality of the ACA three times.
- Because of the ACA, 150 million Americans have access to free preventive care like cancer and heart disease screenings. Sixty percent of people use a preventive care service under the ACA every year.
- After the Roe/Dobbs ruling, this is another example of a step backwards – with a right to health care being taken away … this is yet another attack on the ACA from the same judge who declared the whole ACA unconstitutional — and the plaintiffs are represented by the architect of Texas anti-abortion bill.
- The ruling harms the communities most impacted by the nation’s ongoing health disparities and the HIV epidemic – especially Black and Latinx communities that comprised 47% and 24% of new HIV infections in 2020, respectively.
- The implications for these communities’ health and quality of life with decreasing PrEP access means more HIV infections, each of which is associated with $500,000 in lifetime medical costs.
- Preventive care saves lives, saves families money, and protects and improves our health.
- This case gets between patients and their doctors. It’s yet another attack on the ability of Americans to make health care choices free from political interference.
- Efforts to undermine this requirement are wrong and backwards. The Administration will continue to fight to improve health care and make it more affordable for hard-working families, even in the face of attacks from special interests.
The 2023 Biomedical HIV Prevention Summit honors the diversity of the communities highly impacted by HIV. Next week over 1,300 leaders will gather during this politically difficult moment. Governors, state legislatures, and other governing bodies are going after HIV prevention or the communities we need to reach. NMAC works to create a “safe space” that celebrates the people who are weaponized without their consent. Our job is to give traumatized people a place where we see them. The Summit is NMAC’s thank you to the HIV movement for their leadership to end HIV.
This year’s meeting focuses on sex. Since HIV is primarily sexually transmitted, our work needs to reach these/our communities for HIV testing, PrEP, PEP, and/or treatment. Sex continues to be a taboo subject with too many layers of shame. We live in a world where the people who hate us are using LGBTQ sex to scare their base by calling us groomers of children. While we know it’s untrue, we ignore their lies at our peril.
Does the current political environment impact our HIV prevention efforts? While I want to say no, the reality depends on where you live. Right now, HIV prevention cannot ignore these political challenges. The Summit will be NC-17 and children will not be allowed into the space.
Summit Talking Points
- Tennessee. The Tuesday plenary focuses on TN and beyond. It is also an opportunity to introduce Toni Newman in her new role building the Coalition for Justice and Equality Across Movements. Given what is happening in Texas and TN, we need this effort.
- Braidwood. NMAC was very disappointed but not surprised by Judge O’Connor’s opinion. Unfortunately, that pushes the case to the 5th Circuit where we are likely to lose. From there it is on a path to the Supreme Court.
- Attacks on the Transgender Community and Drag Queens. NMAC stands in solidarity with all the communities highly impacted by HIV. The attacks against the transgender community and drag queens are mostly a “look over there” strategy to strike fear in their base. This year’s Summit will have the “look over there” RuPaul’s Drag Race season 7 winner Jaida Essence Hall.
The trauma we feel is real. It’s hard to be transgender or a drag queen in America. It’s hard to be someone living with HIV, a person of color, LGBTQ, a woman, immigrant, non-binary, or undefined. We are all being weaponized against our will. It’s time to have real conversations about the future of HIV prevention, particularly since HIV PrEP is being used to take down the ACA. This is not the first time they’ve come for us. We walk in the footprints of heroes.
Protests are part of the legacy of the HIV movement. Our meetings are the training ground for future activists and NMAC supports the right to protest. If there are protests, please do not intervene. Call conference staff or go to the conference office. Kindly email me in advance about any protests (firstname.lastname@example.org) so we can coordinate disruptions.
HIV taught our movement that safety is relative. COVID is not over. NMAC encourages everyone to wear masks. However, they are optional. Our COVID policy is the same as last year. COVID tests will be available in the conference office. If you feel sick, please quarantine in your hotel room, and call the office for a test. Do not leave your room until you test negative. Conference staff are here to provide support as needed.
You will need to verify your COVID vaccination status to be admitted to the Summit. There will be NO exceptions. You can upload your vaccination card here.
You can now download the 2023 Summit mobile app. It has the full agenda for the Summit along with all the info you need to navigate the conference. Search for “2023 BHPS” in the App Store and the Google Play Store and download to your phone.
The Summit Program Book is available for download on the Summit website. There will not be a printed program book but there will be a limited number of printed agendas available at Registration.
I look forward to seeing everyone next week. HIV prevention is caught in the crosshairs of the culture wars in America. We have a huge job to not only work to end the epidemics, but also to be warriors in the fight for our right to exist.
Yours in the Struggle,