This article reports on three topics. First, it reports on the legislative update from the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD). Second, it discusses the meeting of the HIV Planning Council (HIV-PC). Third, it discusses the meeting of the South Florida AIDS Network (SFAN).

The Broward HIV Planning Council (HIVPC) oversees the Ryan White Care (RWC) Program of Broward (RWC-Broward). The South Florida AIDS Network (SFAN) advises the RWC program of the Florida Department of Health in Broward (RWC-FL DOH Broward).

NASTAD Legislative update

Congressional leaders and the White House have reached an agreement to fund all 2020 appropriation bills. This agreement includes funding for the Ending the HIV Epidemic Initiative. [Update: This agreement formed the basis for December 16 Congressional approval of the 2020 budget, reported by the New York Times.]

On December 12, the House voted 230 to 192 for a bill to lower the cost of prescription drugs, like antiretrovirals. McConnell has announced that the Senate would not vote on this bill. The House said that they would veto it.

Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico) has agreed to become the new Co-Chair of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus. She is replacing Ilena Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). Barbara Lee (D-CA) serves as its other co-chair. The following Florida House members serve in this caucus: Kathy Castor (D-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL).

HIVPC met on December 5

The HIV Planning Council is looking for more members who are living with HIV. People living with HIV have a chance to help run RWC-Broward. If you would like to join or want more information, contact 954-561-1681 ext. 1343 or ext. 1295. 

Sonya Boyne LMHC presented on the intersections of mental health and HIV. The 2019 County Health Rankings ranked Broward 30th out of 67 Florida Counties. The top U.S. counties for mental health care have a ratio of total population to mental health providers of 310 to 1. In contrast, Broward has a ratio of 670 to 1.

Boyne also discussed how stigma impacts mental health and living with HIV. The Meriam Webster Dictionary defines stigma as “a mark of shame or discredit.” She discussed its three levels: 1) stereotypical thinking, 2) emotional reactions to stereotypes, and 3) discriminatory behavior.

Boyne reported that people living with HIV have an increased risk for mental health problems. Untreated mental health issues can interfere with people staying in HIV treatment. Good mental health involves realizing one’s potential, and coping with the normal stressors of life. 

SFAN met on December 6

Serena Cook (RWC-FL DOH) reported on changing from issuing monthly bus passes to issuing daily bus passes. She said  this was a cost-effective measure. Joey Wynn, of Midland Cares, questioned how cost-effective this change would be. Clients have appointments on different days. Each daily bus pass issued costs staff-time to process and distribute. This extra cost in staff-time could exceed the savings from changing to daily bus passes. 

John Milam of BioLytical Laboratories reported on a new HIV test, the Insti Test. It can generate a result within 60 seconds.

Joey Wynn discussed MidLand Cares, a new HIV agency. It focuses on filling in current gaps in service and making “things easier for clients.” Currently, Midland Cares offers same day PrEP and Telehealth. It strives to be a “one stop shop for wellness and prevention.”

-Next SFAN Meeting: Friday, January 10, at 10:00 a.m. at Holy Cross Healthplex, 1000 NE 56th St., Fort Lauderdale. SFAN welcomes newcomers.

-Next HIVPC meeting: Thursday January 23 at 9:30 a.m. at Broward Government Center, Room GC430, 115 S. Andrews Ave.