Maximizing Health, Minimizing Harm: The Role of Public Health Programs in Drug User Health

By Mariah Johnson, Manager Viral Hepatitis/Policy & Legislative Affairs, NASTAD

Maximizing Health, Minimizing Harm: Drug User Health ToolkitIn February 2015, reports surfaced of an outbreak of new HIV cases in Scott County, Indiana. The initial 26 cases of HIV, first confirmed in December, were followed by more cases (now nearly 90 cases with the majority involving hepatitis C [HCV] co-infection). The cause was the injection of the prescription painkiller Opana. In an effort to combat the outbreak – the largest in the state’s history – Indiana Governor Mike Pence authorized an emergency 30 day needle exchange program in Scott County, administered by state health officials, which opened earlier this week. This was a major development from a Governor who has not supported this intervention in a state where needle exchange programs have long been outlawed. Yet in the face of an historic HIV (and HCV) outbreak, Governor Pence recognized the need for a public health approach guided by the evidence, just as numerous physicians, health departments, and countless community-based and national organizations have before him. Continue reading

Increasing Access to Treatment for HIV and Hepatitis via Patient Assistance Programs and Cost-Sharing Assistance Programs

By Amanda Bowes, Associate, Health Care Access and Viral Hepatitis, NASTAD

Patient Assistance ProgramsThe treatment landscape for both HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) is evolving in exciting and dramatic ways. This excitement is often curbed, however, by high priced drugs and/or restrictive insurance practices that impacted populations face in accessing health care services.  Continue reading

Increasing Access to Treatment for HIV and Hepatitis via Patient and Cost-Sharing Assistance Programs

By Amanda Bowes, Associate, Health Care Access and Viral Hepatitis, NASTADPatient Assistance Programs

The treatment landscape for both HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) is evolving in exciting and dramatic ways. This excitement is often curbed, however, by high priced drugs and restrictive insurance practices that impacted populations face when accessing health care services. While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes an unprecedented expansion of access to both private and public health insurance, the cost of insurance (i.e., premiums, co-payments, co-insurance and deductibles) remain too high for some individuals, even with the availability of federal subsidies. Continue reading

How Meaningful Community Engagement Can Help End HIV

By Maria Courogen, Director, Office of Infectious Disease, Washington State Department of Health

Maria Courogen, Washington State Department of Health

Maria Courogen, Washington State Department of Health

As I began my tenure as NASTAD’s chair in May 2014, I was reminded of the great work that my immediate predecessors, Dawn Fukuda—Director of the Office of HIV/AIDS at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health—and Randy Mayer—Chief of the Bureau of HIV, STD and Hepatitis for the Iowa Department of Public Health—led during their time at the helm. It was a privilege to serve as an officer during both of their terms, as Randy created conversation regarding HIV criminalization and Dawn discussed the transformative power of the Affordable Care Act in the fight against HIV. The themes and work that resulted have pushed us further toward our shared mission of raising the bars as we strive to reach the goals laid out by the President’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy across all of our jurisdictions, for all populations. Continue reading

I Have My Protection—And It’s Not a Condom

By Blake Rowley, Manager, Health Equity & Prevention, NASTAD

Originally published by The Black AIDS Institute

Blake Rowley

Blake Rowley

Like most other Black men, I have had extremely inconsistent engagement with healthcare. If I’m not sick, why go? Until recently, the only time I really cared to access any type of care was when I was getting tested for HIV and other STIs.

In 2012, while conducting research at Fenway Health, I learned that multiple studies were trying to assess how effective taking one pill, once a day, would be at preventing HIV infection. My colleagues and I would joke about taking this pill once it became available, if it was successful. And then “BOOM,” there it was—a one-a-day pill that could prevent HIV by close to 100 percent. Continue reading