NEWS

In This Issue

Like Freddie Kruger, Republican efforts to strip away healthcare from millions of Americans just won't die. To quote Peter Benchley, screenwriter of the blockbuster movie Jaws, "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water," Republicans in the U.S. Senate have introduced a new bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.

This latest effort, sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, like all the previous efforts to repeal Affordable Care Act, eviscerates Medicaid, dismantles the system of subsidies to help people afford insurance, and strips away guaranteed protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

"This is by far the most radical of any of the Republican health care bills that have been debated this year," said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president with the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Let's be clear, Graham-Cassidy is a full-on assault on Black communities. Here is why: Of all racial and ethnic groups, Black Americans have perhaps benefited the most from the ACA. Before the ACA was passed, 26 percent of Black Americans were uninsured, compared to 16 percent of White Americans. Today, only 15 percent of Black Americans lack health insurance. More than 2 million Black Americans who lacked health coverage prior to the ACA, now have it. The Congressional Budget Office has predicted that "millions" of people will lose coverage and Medicaid would lose $1 trillion in federal funding by 2026.

Last night, Senator Collins of Maine announced that she won't support it, which we hope effectively kills the bill. But the GOP has been persistent and we should not underestimate them. They Senate may continue to try to ram this bill thru this week. Time is running out. We must act now!

Today is National HIV Call-In Day. Every Black person in America needs to call 866-246-9371 ask to be connected to Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio to express your opposition to the Graham Cassidy Bill. We must flood the Senate phone lines today and every day this week! Spread the word via email, and social media. The Republicans want to sneak this bill through before Saturday. Call now, call early, call often. Call as if our lives depended on it. Because they do.

In fact, with all that is going on in our world and the critical need for all of us to be involved in what is happening in our name in our country, it is important that we are maximizing as many mechanisms of communication as possible. During the recent U.S. Conference on AIDS (USCA) the Black AIDS Institute in partnership with NMAC, FHI360 and Gilead Sciences sponsored a social media fellowship program. Young people both actively involved in social media and new to social media came together for a 6-day intensive to strengthen their skills, network, and experience the largest HIV/AIDS conference of the year.

This week we are recognizing three of the Fellows for their reporting at the conference and are featuring some of their work in the issue.

·First place: Jourdan Barnes for a personal essay The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp. As our first-place winner, last weekend Jourdan attended the Black AIDS Institute's Heroes in the Struggle Awards Gala and Celebration in Los Angeles.

·Second place (tie): David Armstead (Louisiana Office of Public Health and STD/HIV Program) and Johnny Guaylupo (Housing Works, Inc.) for their Facebook Live interviews of Octavia Yazmin Lewis, a transgender leader and activist.

·Third place: Emily Huang for her video interview of Mark S. King, a "Over 50 Living with HIV Scholar," which she shot, edited and then posted to TheBody.com's Facebook Page.

Over the next month, we're going to feature contributions Jourdan, David, Johnny, Emily and our other social media fellows, as they share their experiences at USCA. We will also be following their work over the next 3 months. We encourage you to look for them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media platforms as they raise their voices to sound the alarm on various issues—from efforts to repeal the ACA and strip away healthcare from millions of Americans, to stigma, and PrEP. They will also be sharing action steps you can take to get involved on any or all of these topics.

Also in this issue, we run two pieces from our friends at HIV.gov. In the first they share a Facebook Live broadcast with two federal HIV leaders, Tony Faucci and Anne Rancourt, both from the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, and provide a wrap-up of other USCA topics. In the second they share information about the CDC's new infection monitoring report that shows new HIV infections are down, though the data on Black people isn't in yet and the epidemic in Southern states continues unabated.

Finally, despite efforts to bombard us with "alternative facts," the latest Census data show that both the number and percentage of uninsured people have declined. In fact, both have reached record lows, a testament to the Affordable Care Act's success.

Yours in the struggle,

Phill