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

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

The Unspoken Legacy of Governor Mario M. Cuomo

By Julie M. Scofield, Executive Director, NASTAD

Former Governor Mario CuomoWhile some may choose to remember former Governor Mario M. Cuomo for the two chartered airplanes on the tarmac in December 1991 and a legacy lacking a signature initiative, I choose to remember the late Governor for setting the stage for Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s “Plan to End the AIDS Epidemic in New York State.” What has yet to be said in the news of Governor Cuomo’s passing is that in addition to a recession and divided legislature, Governor Mario M. Cuomo led New York State at the height of the AIDS epidemic when there was very little to offer those who were sick and dying rapidly. In 1983 when Governor Cuomo took office very little was known about AIDS – the case definition had just come out in September of 1982. By the end of Governor Cuomo’s first year in office, New York State had 1,373 cumulative cases of AIDS, 44.8% of the national total reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by that time. Continue reading

Partnering with Legislators, Policymakers and Advocates to Improve Health Outcomes for Black Gay Men

By Justin T. Rush, Nicholas A. Rango Fellow, NASTAD

Georgia Sexual Health Policy SymposiumIn order to educate policymakers and community members on a number of sexual health topics, NASTAD partnered with the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) and the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus (GLBC) to host the Georgia Sexual Health Policy Symposium on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2014. Convened with the purpose of advancing sexual health outcomes in Georgia, the symposium was an opportunity for legislators, policymakers and advocates to reverse the tide of rapidly increasing rates of STDs, including HIV amongst marginalized populations, specifically among Black gay men/MSM. Continue reading

Year in Review: Top Blog Series

By Michelle Allen, Senior Associate, Communications, NASTAD

As we prepare to close out the year, we at NASTAD are looking back at some of the stories and content that generated the most interest on website and blog in 2014. We encourage you to revisit these stories and share the information as you prepare your jurisdiction or organization for the New Year. Continue reading