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Advocacy Update ~ December 3, 2018

This post was written by Danielle Heiberg, Senior Manager, Policy & Advocacy, and Victoria Rodriguez, Advocacy Associate.

Lame Duck Session: FY19 Appropriations Update and PEPFAR Passes

Congress is back in session for the next two weeks with only four more legislative days before the expiration of the Continuing Resolution (CR) that is currently funding seven appropriations bills, including State and Foreign Operations (SFOPs). The remaining bills must be addressed to forego a partial government shutdown. However, yesterday, Congress announced plans for a two week CR (expiring December 21) to allow for the preparation of the state funeral for President George H.W. Bush.

Last week, the Senate passed the PEPFAR Extension Act (H.R.6651), which is now awaiting President Trump’s signature.

Updates on 116th Congress

-Last week the House Democratic Caucus nominated Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to return as Speaker of the House. The final vote will take place before the full House in January.

-Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-TX) will assume the role of Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee. With Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) expected to be the Chairwoman, this marks a historic moment with two women helming this powerful committee.

Using HER Voice in the Fight Against AIDS

This blog post was written by Sarah Hollis, Senior Communications Manager, Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Friends).

On December 1, the global community will come together to mark the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day. Organizations like the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) have helped cut the number of AIDS-related deaths in half since the peak in 2005. But in many countries, HIV infections remain extremely high.

Adolescent girls and young women face especially difficult odds. In some African countries, young women aged 15-24 are up to eight times more likely to be HIV positive than young men their age. Around the world, a young woman is infected with HIV every 90 seconds.

But with support from the Global Fund, young women are starting to fight back. A new HIV Epidemic Response (HER) initiative – HER Voice – is working to empower networks of adolescent girls and young women across Africa. The HER Voice mantra, “Nothing for us without us,” is based on the principle that adolescent girls and young women have a vital role to play in driving and shaping the HIV response. Their experiences and needs must be central for policy making, program design and implementation.

The innovation and creativity of the young women involved in this initiative breathe new life into HIV/AIDS activism in Africa. Beverly Mutindi (left), a HER Voice Ambassador from Kenya, is using artificial intelligence to reshape the conversation around sexual and reproductive health. She created Sophie Bot, an app that she calls, “Siri for sexual health,” to combat the spread of misinformation among young people. Users can ask Sophie Bot questions and she uses artificial intelligence to respond, either by voice or text, based on information from Kenya’s National AIDS Control Council and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Across the continent, in Cameroon, HER Voice Ambassador Brenda Fuen Formin is also using technology to amplify the voices of young women and girls. Working with friends and colleagues across sub-Saharan Africa, Brenda is creating new safe spaces online for victims of sexual violence and HIV positive women. Using an anonymous blogging platform and bringing medical doctors and psychologists to provide online support, she is helping vulnerable women connect, share their stories and receive psychosocial support.

Programs like HER Voice are essential tools for engaging hard-to-reach and underserved communities in the fight against HIV/AIDS. But these programs are only available when the international community comes together to support the Global Fund. Every three years, donor governments, the private sector and private foundations make pledges to the Global Fund – called replenishment. The next replenishment, which takes place in October 2019, will require a strong commitment from the U.S. to leverage increased support from other donors and help end this epidemic for good.

The Global Fund has set a bold target to reduce the number of new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women by 58 percent in 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa over the next five years. By supporting the Global Fund’s next fundraising round, we can make that target a reality and ensure that young women and girls have access to the essential treatment and prevention programs they need to thrive.

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Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Friends) advocates for U.S. support of the Global Fund, and the goal to end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. As an advocate, Friends engages U.S. policymakers and influencers in conversation about the Global Fund’s lifesaving work, and highlights the significant returns on health investment, both for global partners and for America. For more information about Friends of the Global Fight, visit www.theglobalfight.org.

Advocacy Update ~ November 19, 2018

This post was written by Danielle Heiberg, Senior Manager, Policy & Advocacy, and Victoria Rodriguez, Advocacy Associate.

Midterm Elections and the 116th Congress

This past Election Day marked the highest voter turnout numbers for a midterm election since 1914. As of this writing, six House races and one Senate race have yet to be determined. Democrats picked up 36 House seats and could gain a few more (as of this writing, there will be 231 Democrat and 198 Republican members). On the Senate side, Republicans gained two seats (53 Republican and 47 Democrat members). With the high number of retirements, including Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA), and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and losses by moderate Republicans, including Congressmen Daniel Donovan (R-NY) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ), the incoming Congress will have lots of new faces.

So, what will the 116th Congress look like? Many new members are medical professionals, like former nurse Lauren Underwood (D-IL), physician Kim Schrier (D-WA), and former naval physician John Joyce (R-PA); have a background working in U.S. agencies, like former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala (D-FL) who served in the Clinton administration; have military experience, like former combat platoon leader Max Rose (D-NY) and former White House National Security Officer who also served as a civilian military adviser, Andy Kim (D-NJ); and personal narratives closely linked to work in global health, like Ilhan Omar (D-MN) who migrated to the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia.

With the large number of new members and the Democrats taking control of the House but losing seats in the Senate, there will be some changes to committee assignments. Committee and subcommittee assignments are still being determined, but here is a chart of anticipated changes to current Senate and House Committee and Subcommittee assignments.

With the loss of a number of global health champions – of the House Republicans who signed the fiscal year 2019 maternal and child health funding Dear Colleague letter two-thirds lost their races or are retiring – educating new members and their staff on global health and foreign assistance will be critical. GHC and the global health advocacy community will be on Capitol Hill during the first few months of the new Congress doing educational outreach and cultivating new global health champions, GHC will launch the next version of the Global Health Briefing Book on February 27. To learn more about GHC’s upcoming advocacy opportunities, email advocacy@globalhealth.org.

View the full list of new Congressional members.

Lame Duck Session
When Congress returns after Thanksgiving, they will continue work on the seven remaining Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations bills, including State and Foreign Operations (SFOPs), in hopes of avoiding a partial government shutdown.

While it’s still not clear exactly how the remaining bills will be passed, there is talk of bundling the remaining bills into several “minibuses,” but the major challenge will continue to be the negotiations over funding for the border wall. If this is the way forward, it is rumored that SFOPs would be bundled with the Department of Homeland Security and Commerce and Justice, making the passage of SFOPs challenging. Recently, Republican members met with the President to discuss what final funding for the wall could look like, and it appears that a government shutdown is unlikely. A short-term CR may be needed to give time for Congress to wrap up the final spending packages.

On November 13, the House passed the PEPFAR Extension Act (H.R. 6651), which reauthorizes PEPFAR for five more years. The Senate is expected to pass the reauthorization legislation in the coming days. Remarks from House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA).

U.S. Recommits to GHSA
At the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) Ministerial meeting earlier this month, the Trump administration recommitted the United States to the second phase of GHSA from 2019-2024. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar stated that, “We have the opportunity, at this time in history, to make a significant step forward toward securing our countries from infectious disease threats.” In addition, Secretary Azar announced the administration would commit $150 million to ongoing global health security activities. Read Secretary Azar’s full statement.


Dr. Redfield Provides Update on Ebola Outbreak in DRC on Capitol Hill
In mid-November, Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of CDC, provided an update to Congressional staff on the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Dr. Redfield discussed the challenges in responding to an outbreak in a conflict-zone, where dozens of armed militias operate. In late August, the United States pulled back responders from CDC because of security concerns. Dr. Redfield cited some success with vaccinating contacts, but ongoing mistrust of the government is hampering efforts. Dr. Redfield stated his belief that the disease could become endemic in the region, but WHO and the U.S. government has since downplayed that possibility. To date there are over 350 cases, 305 of them confirmed, and 210 fatalities in the outbreak, now in its fourth month.

Advocacy Update ~ November 5, 2018

This update was written by Danielle Heiberg, Senior Manager, Policy and Advocacy at Global Health Council.

Midterms and Lame Duck Session

The midterm elections take place tomorrow and soon after Congress will return to Washington, DC for Congressional leadership elections, new member orientation, and a lame duck session. During the lame duck session, Congress will need to address the remaining appropriations bills that are currently funded by a Continuing Resolution, which expires on December 7. PEPFAR Reauthorization is another possible legislative item for both chambers.

GHC will share a midterm election breakdown later this month, looking at the makeup of the new Congress and what it could mean for global health and foreign assistance.

Advocacy Update ~ October 22, 2018

This blog post was written by Danielle Heiberg, Senior Manager, Policy and Advocacy, and Victoria Rodriguez, Advocacy Associate at Global Health Council.

Appropriations Update

Congress is in recess until after the midterm elections in November. During the lame duck session, Congress will continue work on the remaining Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 appropriations bills, including State and Foreign Operations, currently being funded under a Continuing Resolution (CR) which expires on December 7. The way forward on the remaining bills is unclear and could be difficult, as President Trump and some Republicans intend to fight for full funding of the border wall.

Looking ahead to FY 2020

On the heels of the news last week that the federal deficit rose 17% in FY 2018, President Trump instructed all federal agencies to reduce their FY 2020 budgets by 5%. As the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and federal agencies have already begun negotiations for the upcoming budget, it is unclear what impact this directive will have, but USAID and the State Department could see another deep cut. The President’s FY 2020 Budget will be released early next year.