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New AIDS advisory panel sworn in at White House



At least seven LGBT people are among the 24 newly appointed members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

The induction of the new PACHA members, who Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gave the oath of office Feb. 2, comes six months after Sebelius dismissed all of the presidential advisory body’s existing members, who were appointed under the Bush administration. Among them were at least three gay members.

The induction of the new members also followed the appointment of veteran AIDS researcher and former U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention official Dr. Helene Gayle as chair of PACHA. Sebelius made the appointment in August.

“When we came into office, the president had new goals for a national HIV strategy,” said Jeff Crowley, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy and one of President Obama’s gay appointees. “So we chose over the summer to renew the [PACHA] charter and made the decision to reconstitute it … so it was aligned with our goals going forward.”

Crowley told DC Agenda that the White House and HHS, which oversees PACHA, announced last fall that they were seeking recommendations for prospective new members of the presidential advisory body from a wide range of AIDS constituencies, including community groups, medical professionals, researchers, service providers, and people living with HIV/AIDS.

He said the White House and HHS vetted prospective appointees through the fall and early winter before selecting the new appointees and calling them to Washington on Feb. 2 for their induction and orientation meetings.

“Today, I’m pleased to have a new group of experts joining PACHA,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House. “And I look forward to hearing from the council about our continued efforts to prevent the spread of HIV infections in the United States and to provide care and treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS around the world.”

Sebelius told the new PACHA members and representatives of state and national AIDS advocacy organizations attending the ceremony that PACHA would serve as a “platform for the administration to share our plans and insights” on future AIDS programs and proposals.

“One of the best parts about this group is that you come from a wide range of backgrounds, with experts in domestic and international AIDS, experts from rural areas and large urban centers, experts representing straight and gay communities,” she said.

“And I’m counting on you to keep me up to date on all of these groups’ concerns, priorities, and insights,” she said.

Gale, the new PACHA chairperson, echoed that view.

“Our role is to be the outside voice that advises the insiders,” she said.

President Bill Clinton created PACHA to serve as the nation’s first presidential advisory panel on AIDS-related issues. Since then, the panel has met three or four times a year, with its stated objective of providing the president with independent, non-partisan recommendations on how to curtail AIDS in the U.S. and globally.

Clinton started a precedent of appointing prominent LGBT people from various fields and professions to the panel. President George W. Bush continued that practice, naming a number of gay Republicans and AIDS activists from the LGBT community.

Some AIDS activists raised objections when Bush also appointed prominent conservative activists to the advisory panel, including advocates of “abstinence only until marriage” policies for the nation’s HIV prevention programs.

The new PACHA appointees in the Obama administration — which were made by Sebelius with White House consultation — include at least seven gay men who have been involved in HIV/AIDS related work.

They include:

• A. Cornelius Baker, former executive director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic and the National Association of People With AIDS and current policy advisor for the National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition.

• Praveenh Basaviah, an LGBT youth advocate who worked as a program director at the National Centers on Sexuality in San Francisco and served as a Clinton School of Government fellow in India, where he worked on AIDS-related projects.

• Douglas Brooks, a licensed clinical social worker who serves as vice president of health services for the Justice Resource Institute in Boston.

• Humberto Cruz, director of the AIDS Institute of the New York State Department of Health, where he oversees HIV prevention programs, clinical health care and public health and HIV-related education for health care providers.

• Michael Horberg, physician and HIV and infectious disease specialist who serves as HIV/AIDS Director for Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., and former chair of the National Lesbian & Gay Medical Association.

• Jack Jackson, HIV/AIDS advocate for American Indians and Alaska Natives living in tribal and urban communities and former member of the board of the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center in Arizona.

• Phil Wilson, founder and executive director of the Black AIDS Institute and former AIDS coordinator for the City of Los Angeles.

These additional PACHA members members have a public record of involvement in LGBT related health issues:

• Robert Greenwald, managing attorney for the Wilmer Hale Legal Services Center in Massachusetts and director of Harvard University Law School’s Health Law & Policy Clinic and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Law Clinic.

• Ejay Jack, graduate assistant at the multicultural affairs office of the University of Nebraska in Omaha, and former director of the university’s Gender & Sexual Orientation Student Agency and member of the university’s Sexual & Gender Equality Task Force. He helped organize a campus National Coming Out Day celebration in 2008 that included students, faculty, and family members.

The three gay menbers of PACHA who were previously dismissed by Sebelius, along with the other members, were Carl Schmid, deputy executive diector fo the AIDS Institute, a national AIDS advocacy group; Robert Kabel, an attorney, former board chair of Log Cabin Republicans and the current chair fo the D.C. Republican Party; and Antonio Urbina, a New York phycian assocaited with HIV/AIDS programs at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Manhattan.



Gilead awards $5 million grant to HRC’s HIV and health equity programs

Money to support efforts to end the epidemic and combat stigma



Human Rights Campaign headquarters in D.C.(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Human Rights Campaign was awarded a $5 million grant from drugmaker Gilead Sciences to expand the organization’s HIV and health equity programs, supporting efforts to end the HIV epidemic by 2030 while combatting stigma in Black and Latino communities.

Funds will be used over the next three years for the HRC Foundation’s HIV and Health Equity Program, its Historically Black Colleges and Universities Program, and its Transgender Justice Initiative, HRC said in a statement Wednesday announcing receipt of the award, which extends Gilead’s $3.2 million grant to the HRC Foundation in 2021.

The organization said its HIV and Health Equity Program plans to develop a “benchmarking tool for institutions that provide HIV services, helping better evaluate the quality of care and measure racially and socially inclusive approaches” while defining “best practices, policies and procedures to optimize HIV service provision for BIPOC LGBTQ+ communities.”

HRC President Kelley Robinson said, “Since the beginning of the HIV epidemic, racism and anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination have created dangerous hurdles for those seeking prevention or treatment.”

“With the generous support of Gilead Sciences, we’ll be able to continue providing critical
resources to help overcome these hurdles, especially focusing on Black and Latine communities in the U.S. South,” Robinson added. “We’ll also be able to expand our efforts, as we seek to remove institutional barriers often unknowingly created by HIV service providers. We must decrease the disparities that place an unnecessary burden on Black and Latine LGBTQ+ people and people living with HIV.”

Gilead Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs and General Counsel Deborah Telman said the company “is committed to advancing health equity, particularly in Black communities and other communities of color that are disproportionately affected by HIV.”

“This grant will build on the impactful work HRC has done with community partners and HBCUs to increase awareness of HIV treatment and prevention options and reduce health disparities, combat discrimination and fight stigma,” Telman said.

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New CDC data shows HIV infections dropped, but mostly among whites

Socioeconomic factor into disproportionate rates



Data published Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a significant decline in new HIV infections, but suggests the impact of prevention efforts was far less substantial for Black and Latino populations.

From 2017-2021, as rates of HIV testing, treatment and the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication rose, new cases dropped by 12 percent overall and by as much as 34 percent among gay and bisexual males aged 13-24.

The numbers show a “move in the right direction,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a press release.

However, when broken down by race, the CDC found new infections were down by 27 percent and 36 percent, respectively, among Black and Latino populations, compared with 45 percent of whites.

Similarly, by 2021 about one third of those who are considered eligible were taking PrEP for HIV prevention, but the CDC noted this number includes “relatively few Black people or Hispanic/Latino people” despite the significant increase in prescriptions up from just 13 percent in 2017.

“Longstanding factors, such as systemic inequities, social and economic marginalization and residential segregation,” Walensky noted, continue to act as barriers “between highly effective HIV treatment and prevention and people who could benefit from them.”

She added, “Efforts must be accelerated and strengthened for progress to reach all groups faster and equitably.”

Robyn Neblett Fanfair, acting director of the CDC’s Division of HIV Prevention, said that “At least three people in the U.S. get HIV every hour — at a time when we have more effective prevention and treatment options than ever before.”

“These tools must reach deep into communities and be delivered faster to expand progress from some groups to all groups,” she said.

The HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute issued a press release following the CDC’s announcement of the new data, noting both the encouraging progress and need for improvement.

“It appears that our investments in HIV prevention are providing some positive results, but the persistent high number of new diagnoses and the low usage of PrEP among the communities most impacted by HIV point to the need for increased resources, particularly for a national PrEP program,” said the group’s executive director, Carl Schmid.

President Joe Biden’s FY24 budget requested $237 million for a national PrEP program along with $850 million to support the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ “Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S.” initiative.

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Officials eye mpox prevention, vaccination initiatives for this summer’s LGBTQ events

New cluster of cases reported in Chicago



Drs. Robert Fenton and Demetre Daskalakis, coordinator and deputy coordinator for the White House national mpox response, during a briefing in August 2022 (Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith)

Federal health agencies, in coordination with their state and local counterparts and community partners, are exploring opportunities to offer mpox prevention initiatives and vaccinations at LGBTQ events this summer, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis said on Thursday.

Daskalakis, the deputy coordinator for the White House’s national mpox response, described these deliberations in response to a question from the Washington Blade during a media telebriefing on mpox that was hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC on Monday issued a Health Alert Network Health Update on the potential risk for new mpox cases.

Since the peak of about 460 cases per day in August 2022, new cases have steadily declined, but following the cluster recently reported in the Chicago area, the update warns, “spring and summer season in 2023 could lead to a resurgence of mpox as people gather for festivals and other events.”

“We have the vaccine, and we have organizations that are willing to do it,” Daskalakis said during Thursday’s call, adding that resources are available and can be deployed flexibly because they are built into existing “HIV and STI funding to allow for this work.”

And the Mpox Crisis Response Cooperative Agreement, Daskalakis said, “provides even more resources locally for such efforts.”

Daskalakis and CDC Mpox Response Incident Manager Dr. Christopher R. Braden also briefed reporters on findings from new studies on the efficacy of the JYNNEOS vaccine for the prevention of mpox.

That data, per the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, reveals that “Among gay, bisexual, and other MSM and transgender adults aged 18-49 years, two doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine were 86 percent effective against mpox, indicating substantial protection against mpox.”

Additionally, “All routes of vaccine administration provided similar protection.”

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