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Strategy in Action: Regional Summits on National HIV/AIDS Strategy Implementation

HHS Region MapAs part of ongoing efforts to work toward the National HIV/AIDS Strategy’s (NHAS) goal of achieving a more coordinated national response to the epidemic, over the past two months six of the 10 Department of Health and Human Services regional offices have convened NHAS Summits to discuss progress in implementing the Strategy and to identify additional actions to be taken at the regional, state and local levels. Each of the summits was convened under the direction of the HHS Regional Health Administrator (RHA), the senior federal public health official and scientist in that region, responsible for supporting HHS activities related to prevention, preparedness, and agency-wide coordination throughout the states in that region. In this post we share highlights from three of the summits; we’ll share a second post soon with highlights from the other three.

Region X
The first of these recent summits was convened on May 9 in Region X (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington). The summit was held in Seattle and brought together 70 regional stakeholders – including state health department officials from all four states, representatives of community-based service providers, and officials from the HHS regional office – to identify and advance collaborative efforts to implement both the NHAS and the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care, and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis (Action Plan). A regional HIV and viral hepatitis epidemiological profile provided a foundation for the discussions that followed which included national perspectives on the NHAS the Action Plan shared by myself and Corinna Dan, R.N., M.P.H., also from the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy. Seeking opportunities to better coordinate responses to both HIV and viral hepatitis in each state and across the region, representatives from each of the four states in the region highlighted both practical and innovative efforts to implement the NHAS and the Action Plan and shared valuable lessons they have learned about tailoring their efforts to the characteristics of the epidemics in each state. Some opportunities identified by the participants to advance the implementation of both the NHAS and Action Plan included: improving collaborations between local Federally Qualified Health Centers and HIV community planning groups; conducting assessments to document unmet needs in hepatitis care and hepatitis C rates among men who have sex with men (MSM); advocating for the provision of more hepatitis care in Ryan White programs in the region; and offering hepatitis risk assessments and referrals to testing at HIV testing events given that they share common transmission routes and risk factors.

Region VII
Region VII (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska) held its second NHAS Summit in Kansas City, Missouri on May18, providing a forum for state health officials and representatives of local HIV service groups to have a candid discussion regarding implementation of the NHAS and specific ideas and issues related to efforts to improve HIV/AIDS prevention and care services.  Dr. Kevin Fenton, Director of CDC’s National Centers for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention discussed how CDC is working at the national level and with state and local partners throughout the United States to advance the NHAS by pursuing a High-Impact Prevention approach. This approach seeks to consider not only program effectiveness but also the overall impact on the course of the epidemic. While combining effective prevention tools is essential, it is not enough, Dr. Fenton explained. To maximize reductions in new HIV infections, prevention strategies need to be combined in the smartest and most efficient ways possible for the populations and areas most affected by the epidemic.  This means identifying and implementing the most cost-effective and scalable interventions in the geographic areas hardest hit by HIV and among the most severely affected populations within those areas.

State HIV/AIDS Directors from all four States each presented updates on current epidemiological data and offered their perspective on future opportunities and challenges.  They shared their concerns about adjusting to new CDC prevention funding allocations to state health departments, which resulted in reductions to all four states. This reallocation of HIV prevention resources was undertaken by CDC to better match the geographic burden of the current U.S. epidemic.  All participants agreed that enhanced collaboration and coordination among all parties – state and local health departments, AIDS service organizations, community-based organizations and other partners – will be key to navigating this new reality and maintaining the region’s relatively low HIV incidence.  During the meeting, they identified opportunities to collaborate both locally and across the region.

Region IX
In Region IX, the RHA convened the Bay Area National HIV/AIDS Strategy Symposium on June 8 in San Francisco. More than 80 local health officials and community leaders as well as representatives of AIDS service organizations, community based organizations, and faith-based organizations from the San Francisco/Oakland Bay area participated.  Dr. Grant Colfax, formerly the HIV Prevention Director in San Francisco and now the Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, returned to his former home as the featured speaker at the Symposium.  He discussed the considerable progress to date at the federal level in implementing the NHAS. Dr. Colfax reinforced that responsibility for implementing the NHAS doesn’t fall to the federal government alone; the efforts of regional, state, and community stakeholders are vitally important.  Following Dr. Colfax, Ms. Vera Yakovchenko of the Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy shared NHAS implementation progress highlights from the Department of Health and Human Services. Following those presentations, all the participants took part in a workshop to advance the conversation about what  Symposium that will help better coordinate the regional response to HIV.

Common Themes
At each of these three summits – and, indeed all six that have occurred recently – sizable and diverse groups of participants shared a commitment to advancing efforts to implement the Strategy and a desire to identify innovative methods and collaborations that will contribute to success in reducing new HIV infections, increasing access to care, optimizing healthier outcomes, and decreasing health disparities.

Watch for a second post from the Regional HIV/AIDS Resource Coordinators soon with highlights from the other three recent regional NHAS summits. In the meantime, for more information about these (or upcoming) regional summits or about the Regional HIV/AIDS Resource Network Program in your area, contact:

HHS Region

Summit

Regional Resource Coordinator

Region I (CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT)

Fall 2012

Jennease.hyatt@hhs.gov

Region II (NJ, NY, PR, USVI)

Oct 2011

angelica.ramirez@hhs.gov

Region III (DE, DC, MD, PA, VA, WV)

8/2/12

Susan.wyche@hhs.gov

Region IV (AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, TN)

6/15/12

Jacqueline.taylor@hhs.gov

Region V (IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI)

7/10/12

Emily.conner@hhs.gov

Region VI (AR, LA, NM, OK, TX)

Fall 2012

Regina.aikens-waits@hhs.gov

Region VII (IA, KS, MO, NE)

5/18/12

Tommy.amico@hhs.gov

Region VIII (CO, MT, ND, SD, UT, WY)

6/18/12

Lisa.cohen@hhs.gov

Region IX (AZ, CA, HI, NV, and the Pacific Territories)

6/8/12

Adriann.mccall@hhs.gov

Region X (AK, ID, OR, WA)

5/9/12

Erick.seelbach@hhs.gov

Mr. Tommy Amico, Ms. Adriann McCall, and Mr. Erick Seelbach, the Regional HIV/AIDS Resource Coordinators from Regions VII, IX and X, coordinated these meetings and contributed to the development of this post.

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