Newsletter

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.

Delivering Quality Care to Patients Who Need it Most: Exploring Health Strategies at the Global Conference on Primary Health Care

This blog post was written by Maia Olsen, Program Manager, NCD Synergies at Partners In Health (PIH). PIH’s mission is to provide a preferential option for the poor in health care. By establishing long-term relationships with sister organizations based in settings of poverty, Partners In Health strives to achieve two overarching goals: to bring the benefits of modern medical science to those most in need of them and to serve as an antidote to despair. They are a 2018 Global Health Council member.

Maia Olsen (second from the left) joins PIH colleagues in Astana, Kazakhstan – including PIH Liberia’s Executive Director Patrick Ulysse, PIH Haiti’s Co-Executive Director Loune Viaud, and PIH’s Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships Leslie Flinn – in a surprise photo with WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who was between commitments amid a busy conference schedule. Photo Credit: Eric Hansen / Partners In Health

Last week, Partners In Health (PIH) came together in Astana, Kazakhstan with Ministries of Health and colleagues representing institutions throughout the world for a historic and inspiring week of meetings on primary health care and strategies to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC). The week was in honor of the 40th Anniversary of the Declaration of Alma-Ata, as well as in recognition of how much is still left to be achieved on the 1978 call to action so many years ago.

On Wednesday 24th October, PIH held a one day pre-meeting to the global conference entitled “Health Systems and Delivery Strategies to Achieve Universal Health Coverage” in collaboration with the Ministry of Health of Kazakhstan and the Global Financing Facility. At this meeting, PIH looked to generate energy and critical discussion around pathways to expand quality care delivery to patients who need it most, across all levels of the health system. A common theme throughout the day’s discussion was how imperative it is that we – as the implementing community in low- and middle-income countries – encourage donors and support governments to invest in comprehensive health systems strengthening that addresses what our patients need across the full disease spectrum, rather than centering prevention and care delivery solely around “low-hanging fruit”, vertical programs, or a more minimal and selective primary care package.

Over 150 participants attended PIH’s sessions, representing peer organizations such as PIVOT, Muso, Possible, Last Mile Health, Integrate Health, Amref, and many members of the Frontline Health Workers Coalition and Civil Society Engagement Mechanism for UHC2030, prominent stakeholders including the WHO, World Bank, Global Fund, USAID, GAVI, and Global Health Council, and more than ten Ministry of Health delegations across countries as diverse as Liberia, Madagascar, Kazakhstan, and Nepal. Throughout the day, discussions were forward-looking, social justice focused, and rooted in asking hard questions regarding how to provide increased access to quality care to the world’s most vulnerable populations.

As Dr. Joia Mukherjee, PIH’s Chief Medical Officer, stated in an opinion piece coinciding with last week’s conference:

“Provision of high quality care is attainable in some of the hardest to reach and least-resourced settings when patient-centered approaches are prioritized […] Universal health coverage is an ideal whose benefits are clear, whose time has come, and whose expense is nothing compared to the cost of continued delays.”

As someone representing the NCD community through my role with the NCD Synergies program at PIH and who has closely collaborated with partners like the Global Health Council, NCD Roundtable, and the Women and NCDs Taskforce in advocacy efforts leading up to the 2018 UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs, it was inspiring to be – just over a month later – in a room where NCDs, mental health, and injuries fit squarely in a broader conversation around how to achieve universal health coverage and health financing in the poorest settings where PIH works.

As we have demonstrated through PIH’s work and partnership across the Program in Global NCDs and Social Change at Harvard Medical School and the Lancet Commission on Reframing NCDs and Injuries among the Poorest Billion, there are proven strategies to address gaps in care for NCDs, mental health, and surgically-amenable conditions, which often extend beyond primary care, such as the PEN-Plus packagefor integrated management of severe, complex, and chronic NCDs such as rheumatic heart disease and type 1 diabetes at first-level hospitals.

For those that have seen or experienced the struggles of young patients like Babesh Tumang and Sheila Chipenge living with NCDs like neuroblastoma and type 1 diabetes, it is immediately clear why severe NCDs that impact the world’s youngest and poorest patients must be included as an essential part of the global UHC agenda. Their voices are why our NCD Synergies team made the call to action we did on behalf of PIH at the July 5th United Nations Interactive Hearing on NCDs alongside our colleagues at Global Health Council and other civil society institutions.

Their voices are also why we were so honored to be in Astana to come together around such an ambitious call to action to support governments to progressively achieve universal coverage to quality care spanning the health system and inclusive of all conditions – from cholera to multi-drug resistant tuberculosis to rheumatic heart disease.

We ask our colleagues throughout the world to join forces with us in advocating for increased funds for integrated health systems strengthening to achieve UHC. Let’s work together to realize the commitments in the Astana Declaration – and throughout the UHC agenda – in a way we didn’t following Alma Ata in 1978.