More Regional Summits on National HIV/AIDS Strategy Implementation

Content From: Timothy Harrison, PhD, Senior Policy Advisor, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesPublished: September 13, 20127 min read


The Strategy in Action. Communities respond to the National HIV/AIDS Strategy

HHS regional offices have continued to support regional and local conversations about implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) in recent months. Meetings convened by Department of Health and Human Services’ regional offices are 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. These NHAS Summits have served as a forum for federal and non-federal stakeholders to discuss progress in implementing the Strategy and to identify additional actions that could be taken at the regional, state, and local levels. Earlier this year we shared highlights of several of those meetings. Since that time additional meetings have taken place as described below.

HHS Region Map

Region IVThe fourth in this recent series of regional NHAS Summits took place in Region IV (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee). States in Region IV have among the highest rates of HIV diagnoses (number per 100,000 population) in the U.S. as well as some of the highest rates of people living with an AIDS diagnoses in the country. The proportion of people living with AIDS in the South has been increasing, and Region IV has some of the highest AIDS-related death rates in the country. Against this backdrop, staff from state and local health departments and community-based organizations from across the region gathered with several senior federal regional officials on June 15 in Atlanta for a summit to explore ways to strengthen the region’s response to HIV/AIDS. At the Summit, participants discussed regional HIV/AIDS epidemiology trends; shared current challenges/barriers in their HIV prevention, care and treatment efforts; and brainstormed possibilities to overcome them through collaboration.

Dr. Ron Valdiserri, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases, and Director of the Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, provided an opening presentation on NHAS implementation and the HHS 12 Cities Project. Dr. Kevin Fenton, Director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, presented on the CDC’s Enhanced Comprehensive HIV Prevention Planning demonstration project and its High-Impact HIV Prevention approach to reducing new HIV infections in the United States. The ultimate goal of these efforts is to increase collaboration across programs and among stakeholders and align those efforts with the NHAS priorities. Both presenters indicated that identifying new and innovative approaches for strengthening collaboration and coordination of services at all levels of government and community is a priority. In-depth discussion ensued among the participants about HIV/AIDS resource allocation, capacity building, implementing the NHAS, and strategies for strengthening collaboration.

Region VIIIRepresentatives from states across Region VIII (Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming) participated in an NHAS summit organized by their HHS regional office on June 18, 2012 in Denver. Building on several prior NHAS meetings held in the region and with the goal of continuing to strengthen partnerships between community-based organizations and government (federal, state and local) to better coordinate a regional response to HIV/AIDS, this Summit focused specifically on addressing the health and well-being of gay and bisexual men as well as strategies for integrating HIV/AIDS prevention and care in rural/frontier geographic communities. Dr. Zachary Taylor, the HHS Regional Health Administrator, shared information about HHS and regional initiatives in support of the NHAS, including a discussion of efforts to support gay, bisexual, and transgender communities which bear a heavy burden of HIV in the region and nationally. Dr. Andrew Forsyth, Senior Science Advisor at the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, discussed progress at HHS on streamlining HIV program indicators and reducing grantee reporting requirements.

The AIDS Directors from all six state health departments in the region moderated a state-by-state response exercise that allowed them and other participants to share with each other ways in which their state has been impacted by and is working to implement the NHAS. Those discussions set a foundation for conversations held later in the day focusing on the direct application of NHAS in those communities, again with a particular focus on both gay and bisexual men and the HIV prevention, care, and treatment needs of rural/frontier communities with low HIV incidence rates. To support putting the day’s lessons into action, at the conclusion of the meeting the group developed visual displays of their next steps, similarities between each participant’s goals, and how they needed each other in order to implement them.

Region IIIMost recently, HHS Region III (Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia) organized an NHAS meeting on August 2, 2012. Hosted at Thomas Jefferson University’s School of Population Health in Philadelphia, 135 stakeholders attended, including representatives from the federal, state, and local governments, health care providers, education community members, and members of community- and faith-based organizations. Dr. Timothy Harrison, Senior Policy Advisor at the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, provided an opening presentation on NHAS implementation and through a series specific examples highlighted the important role that coordination and collaboration play in meeting the goals of the NHAS. The remainder of the full-day Region III meeting focused on the importance of integrating behavioral health (i.e., mental health and mental health conditions, including substance use) in the response to HIV/AIDS. Sharing perspectives on this issue were Dr. Warren Hewitt of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Dr. Linda Frank, Associate Professor of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh and Director of the Pennsylvania/Mid-Atlantic AIDS Education and Training Center. They discussed the importance of addressing co-occurring disorders such as mental illness and/or drug abuse when seeking to reduce the incidence of HIV infections and improve linkage to care and treatment outcomes. Following these and other presentations, participants engaged in discussion sessions about the integration of behavioral health and HIV prevention during which they shared both best practices and challenges on topics such as adolescent interventions, trauma and substance abuse, and mental illness stigma.

Also during the Region III meeting, Drs. Lisa Belcher and Mary Neumann of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also shared highlights and lessons from the experiences of three jurisdictions in Region III participating in the CDC’s Enhanced Comprehensive HIV Prevention Planning (ECHPP) initiative (Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC). Begun in 2010, this three-year demonstration project has helped these jurisdictions prioritize, target, and scale up evidence-based HIV prevention activities to maximize impact. Lessons from this process are reflected in CDC’s new High Impact Prevention approach and have been integrated into the HIV prevention grants awarded to state health departments earlier this year. Given that the audience was drawn heavily from the Philadelphia area, the Region III team is exploring conducting a similar meeting in either or both Baltimore or Washington, DC, in the near future.

Common ThemesAll six of these regional NHAS summits demonstrated that there are numerous stakeholders—from both community organizations and government agencies—committed to the goals of the NHAS and actively working to incorporate its priorities and actions throughout their work. The summits helped advance these efforts, particularly by serving as forums for information sharing and settings in which partnerships were initiated or expanded.

For more information about these regional summits or about the Regional HIV/AIDS Resource Network Program in your area, contact:

HHS RegionRegional Resource Coordinator
Region I (CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT)
Region II (NJ, NY, PR, USVI)
Region III (DE, DC, MD, PA, VA, WV)
Region IV (AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, TN)Vacant
Region V (IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI)
Region VI (AR, LA, NM, OK, TX)
Region VII (IA, KS, MO, NE)
Region VIII (CO, MT, ND, SD, UT, WY)
Region IX (AZ, CA, HI, NV, and the Pacific Territories)
Region X (AK, ID, OR, WA)

Ms. Lisa Cohen and Ms. Susan Wyche, the Regional HIV/AIDS Resource Coordinators from Regions VIII and III, coordinated the meetings in their communities and contributed to the development of this post.