While George Zimmerman ate up the mainstream media’s news cycle perpetually this week, and even President Obama himself got in on the action, spreading his own feelings about the verdict albeit tongue-in-cheek, as always is the case, there was another agenda at work. Our “While You Were Sleeping” category was created for situations just like this. Anytime there is a major polarizing news story like the Zimmerman trial has become, you can always bet that underneath the surface, politicians are eagerly pushing something through that would have normally been front page news but because of the distraction can slip through with little opposition or attention.
President Obama seized on this magical opportunity to sign his autopen to yet another executive order. Yes, not even a week ago was the last one, the one that gave him unparalleled authority over communications and the Internet. Well, he’s back. This order is called the “HIV Care Continuum Initiative.”
First of all, where did this come from? HIV and AIDS is certainly still a problem, but it has hardly been top of the news cycle lately. It seems kind of out of the blue that Obama would suddenly throw down an executive order about this, what with all the myriad of things out there he could be attempting to throw his authority around on. In any case, the executive order is getting a lot of attention in conspiracy circles for one reason: HIV and AIDS testing.
A lot of our fellow sites are sensationalizing this order by proclaiming that Obama has now legislated “mandatory” HIV/AIDS testing for everyone. Well, that is not technically true. The executive order only “recommends” that it be so. The real question that we all need to ask is how far the divide is between “recommending” and “requiring” and why exactly this is coming up at this particular moment in time?
We can assure you one thing. It is no accident. In any case, we have included the text of the order below. Hit the More button if you want to check out the entire document.
Executive Order — HIV Care Continuum Initiative
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ACCELERATING IMPROVEMENTS IN HIV PREVENTION AND CARE IN THE UNITED STATES THROUGH THE HIV CARE CONTINUUM INITIATIVE
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to further strengthen the capacity of the Federal Government to effectively respond to the ongoing domestic HIV epidemic, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Policy. Addressing the domestic HIV epidemic is a priority of my Administration. In 2010, the White House released the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy (Strategy), setting quantitative goals for reducing new HIV infections, improving health outcomes for people living with HIV, and reducing HIV-related health disparities. The Strategy will continue to serve as the blueprint for our national response to the domestic epidemic. It has increased coordination, collaboration, and accountability across executive departments and agencies (agencies) with regard to addressing the epidemic. It has also focused our Nation’s collective efforts on increasing the use of evidence-based approaches to prevention and care among populations and in regions where HIV is most concentrated.
Since the release of the Strategy, additional scientific discoveries have greatly enhanced our understanding of how to prevent and treat HIV. Accordingly, further Federal action is appropriate in response to these new developments. For example, a breakthrough research trial supported by the National Institutes of Health showed that initiating HIV treatment when the immune system was relatively healthy reduced HIV transmission by 96 percent. In addition, evidence suggests that early treatment may reduce HIV-related complications. These findings highlight the importance of prompt HIV diagnosis, and because of recent advances in HIV testing technology, HIV can be detected sooner and more rapidly than ever before.
Based on these and other data, recommendations for HIV testing and treatment have changed. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommends that clinicians screen all individuals ages 15 to 65 years for HIV, and the Department of Health and Human Services Guidelines for Use of Antiretroviral Agents now recommends offering treatment to all adolescents and adults diagnosed with HIV.
Furthermore, ongoing implementation of the Affordable Care Act provides a historic opportunity for Americans to access affordable, quality health care. The Act is expanding access to recommended preventive services with no out-of-pocket costs, including HIV testing, and, beginning in 2014, insurance
companies will not be able to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, including HIV. Starting October 1, 2013, Americans can select the coverage that best suits them through the new Health Insurance Marketplace, and coverage will begin January 1, 2014.
Despite progress in combating HIV, important work remains. Since the publication of the Strategy, data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that there are significant gaps along the HIV care continuum — the sequential stages of care from being diagnosed to receiving optimal treatment. Nearly one-fifth of the estimated 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States are undiagnosed; one-third are not linked to medical care; nearly two-thirds are not engaged in ongoing care; and only one-quarter have the virus effectively controlled, which is necessary to maintain long-term health and reduce risk of transmission to others.
In light of these data, we must further clarify and focus our national efforts to prevent and treat HIV infection. It is the policy of my Administration that agencies implementing the Strategy prioritize addressing the continuum of HIV care, including by accelerating efforts to increase HIV testing, services, and treatment along the continuum. This acceleration will enable us to meet the goals of the Strategy and move closer to an AIDS-free generation.
Sec. 2. Establishment of the HIV Care Continuum Initiative. There is established the HIV Care Continuum Initiative (Initiative), to be overseen by the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy. The Initiative will mobilize and coordinate Federal efforts in response to recent advances regarding how to prevent and treat HIV infection. The Initiative will support further integration of HIV prevention and care efforts; promote expansion of successful HIV testing and service delivery models; encourage innovative approaches to addressing barriers to accessing testing and treatment; and ensure that Federal resources are appropriately focused on implementing evidence-based interventions that improve outcomes along the HIV care continuum.
Sec. 3. Establishment of the HIV Care Continuum Working Group. There is established the HIV Care Continuum Working Group (Working Group) to support the Initiative. The Working Group shall coordinate Federal efforts to improve outcomes nationally across the HIV care continuum.
(a) Membership. The Working Group shall be co-chaired by the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy and the Secretary of Health and Human Services or designee (Co-Chairs). In addition to the Co-Chairs, the Working Group shall consist of representatives from:
(i) the Department of Justice;
(ii) the Department of Labor;
(iii) the Department of Health and Human Services;
(iv) the Department of Housing and Urban Development;
(v) the Department of Veterans Affairs;
(vi) the Office of Management and Budget; and
(vii) other agencies and offices, as designated by the Co-Chairs.
(b) Consultation. The Working Group shall consult with the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, as appropriate.
(c) Functions. As part of the Initiative, the Working Group shall:
(i) request and review information from agencies describing efforts to improve testing, care, and treatment outcomes, and determine if there is appropriate emphasis on addressing the HIV care continuum in relation to other work concerning the domestic epidemic;
(ii) review research on improving outcomes along the HIV care continuum;
(iii) obtain input from Federal grantees, affected communities, and other stakeholders to inform strategies to improve outcomes along the HIV care continuum;
(iv) identify potential impediments to improving outcomes along the HIV care continuum, including for populations at greatest risk for HIV infection, based on the efforts undertaken pursuant to paragraphs (i), (ii), and (iii) of this subsection;
(v) identify opportunities to address issues identified pursuant to paragraph (iv) of this subsection, and thereby improve outcomes along the HIV care continuum;
(vi) recommend ways to integrate efforts to improve outcomes along the HIV care continuum with other evidence-based strategies to combat HIV; and
(vii) specify how to better align and coordinate Federal efforts, both within and across agencies, to improve outcomes along the HIV care continuum.
(i) Within 180 days of the date of this order, the Working Group shall provide recommendations to the President on actions that agencies can take to improve outcomes along the HIV care continuum.
(ii) Thereafter, the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy shall include, as part of the annual report to the President pursuant to section 1(b) of my memorandum of July 13, 2010 (Implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy), a report prepared by the Working Group on
Government-wide progress in implementing this order. This report shall include a quantification of progress made in improving outcomes along the HIV care continuum.
Sec. 4. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.