On March 1st, President Biden delivered a State of the Union address to Congress and the nation. In his remarks, President Biden put forth his vision for the nation, including a number of health priorities and policies. He discussed the need to lower prescription drug prices and called for allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices like the Department of Veterans Affairs already does. He highlighted extra assistance with premiums for Affordable Care Act health plans now available to millions of families through the American Rescue Plan, and he called for making those savings permanent. Though not specifically about HIV, some of the other issues the President discussed are directly related to achieving our national goal of ending the HIV epidemic by 2030.
Addressing the Nation’s Opioid Epidemic
The President also emphasized the need to address the nation’s opioid epidemic, saying “tonight I’m offering a Unity Agenda for the Nation. Four big things we can do together. First, beat the opioid epidemic. There is so much we can do. Increase funding for prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery.”
Such increased funding would also help address the syndemic of HIV and substance use disorder highlighted in the President’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy for 2022–2025 (NHAS), helping to reduce the risk of HIV transmission among people who use drugs and improving HIV outcomes for those who inject drugs, one of the populations prioritized in the NHAS. Harm reduction is a cross-cutting theme in the Strategy. It identifies harm reduction, such as syringe services programs, as an effective public health intervention, which aims to lessen harms associated with substance use and related behaviors that increase the risk of acquiring HIV and other infectious diseases. The Strategy calls for the implementation of evidence-based harm reduction and other services for the prevention of HIV and other infectious diseases and making best use of all available substance use disorder and infectious disease funding. The NHAS also recognizes substance use prevention, treatment, and harm reduction programs as important partners in achieving our national goal of ending the HIV epidemic.
Protecting Transgender Americans from Discrimination
In his address, President Biden also sent a message to transgender Americans, saying, “[a]nd for our LGBTQ+ Americans, let’s finally get the bipartisan Equality Act to my desk. The onslaught of state laws targeting transgender Americans and their families is wrong. As I said last year, especially to our younger transgender Americans, I will always have your back as your President, so you can be yourself and reach your God-given potential.” Transgender women are another of the populations disproportionately affected by HIV prioritized in the NHAS. The Strategy recognizes that their HIV risk and HIV outcomes are complicated by trans-phobia and discrimination. Across each of its four goals, the NHAS calls for focusing efforts on the priority populations, including transgender women.
For more information about NHAS implementation, as well as other information and HIV-related updates, please visit HIV.gov.