By Emily McCloskey, Manager, Policy and Legislative Affairs
Today, the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) released A Path to Policy: A Blueprint for Community Engagement and Advocacy. The toolkit is designed to assist state health departments and HIV and viral hepatitis programs build their advocacy, policy development and implementation and community engagement efforts.
Public health agencies are the central authorities of the nation’s public health system that serve an essential role in the monitoring, prevention and management of HIV and viral hepatitis. Evidence-informed, science-based, effective public health programs that increase access to prevention, care, treatment and support for people living with HIV and viral hepatitis are a key part of how we can collectively Raise the Bars. These programs are most successful in legal and policy environments that incorporate a human rights approach to HIV and viral hepatitis. Because they provide a unique perspective, state health departments must be able to advance policy, advocate for programs and work with the communities they serve.
In order for state health departments to have an impactful advocacy effort, the health department must engage with many partners and utilize different cohesive, coalition-building strategies. This toolkit is intended to provide health departments with guidance for establishing, improving or sustaining meaningful community engagement, advocating for resources and policies necessary to end the epidemics, and educating policymakers and the public about their health department’s role, programs and the importance of accelerating HIV and viral hepatitis prevention, treatment and care nationwide.