Harold Phillips Speaks at PEPFAR’s First Health Equity Global Workshop
On December 16, Harold Phillips, Director, White House Office of National AIDS Policy, spoke at the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief’s (PEPFAR) first Health Equity Global Workshop in a panel titled “Equity: A United States Priority.” In line with PEPFAR’s first pillar, “Health Equity for Priority Populations,” the workshop convened stakeholders to co-create a roadmap of program priorities and partnerships to identify and close significant gaps that continue to block progress for priority populations including, for example, adolescent girls, young women, and children. PEPFAR recently released its new five-year strategy: Fulfilling America’s Promise to End the HIV/AIDS Pandemic by 2030. Read the strategy here.
Also speaking at the Health Equity Global Workshop were Ambassador Dr. John Nkengasong, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator; Loyce Pace, Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs, HHS; Peter Sands, Executive Director, Global Fund; Winnie Byanima, Executive Director, UNAIDS; along with other federal and non-federal global health experts.
Mr. Phillips spoke about the Biden Administration’s focus on collaborations between international and domestic HIV responses. This includes an executive order on advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities and a memorandum on advancing the human rights of LGBTQI+ individuals worldwide. To mark Pride Month 2022, President Biden signed the most significant executive order on LGBTQI+ civil rights in history. Among other actions, this order strengthened federal coordination to improve health equity by protecting LGBTQI+ individuals’ access to health services, addressing the risks of so-called conversion therapy, and driving better data collection on individuals’ sexual orientation and gender identity to increase the visibility of LGBTQI+ populations and better serve their needs.
The Administration launched the first-ever White House Interagency Working Group on Violence Against Transgender Americans, which released a fact sheet and blueprint of actions agencies are taking to address the root causes of violence against transgender women of color. In December 2021, the Health Resources and Services Administration HIV/AIDS Bureau released a letter (PDF, 93.6KB) encouraging Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program service providers to leverage their infrastructure to provide access to gender-affirming care and treatment services for transgender and gender-diverse people with HIV.
“The National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which we released last December, aligns in many ways with the new PEPFAR 5-year Strategy. And one of those ways is the consistent and intentional focus on equity,” said Mr. Phillips. “One of the things I’m most proud of that is in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy is the acknowledgment, for the first time, that racism is a serious public health threat affecting the well-being of millions of individuals and also a driver of HIV outcomes.”
In 2019, the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S initiative began, which gave additional resources to the 57 areas in the country where there was the greatest number of new HIV diagnoses. While the initiative was slowed due to COVID-19, there has been tremendous progress, with almost 20,000 clients newly engaged or re-engaged into HIV care and over 80,000 people linked to PrEP access through community health centers. Mr. Phillips noted that we must continue to center people with lived experiences to be at the forefront of creating and implementing policies and programs that are purported to serve these populations.
Mr. Phillips concluded, “We will not have ended the HIV epidemic in the U.S. if we end the epidemic only in certain populations, localities, or regions. We will not be able to truly implement policies and programs that contribute to ending the epidemic if we do not center health equity and the communities most impacted by the HIV epidemic.”