December 20, 2011
On December 2, 2011, Housing Works had the opportunity to interview Jeffrey Crowley, MPH, who ends his tenure as President Obama's Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) and Senior Advisor on Disability Policy this month. Crowley was appointed by President Obama to those positions in 2009. Crowley spoke to us via phone about the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, the Affordable Care Act and his legacy at ONAP.
HW: So what do you think have been the major achievements of your time at ONAP?
JC: Well I think that passing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy was a major accomplishment. We think it is a great roadmap to achieving our goals of reducing HIV incidence. Not only that, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy has had broad public engagement, we've helped reinvigorate a focus on the domestic epidemic, and we've also worked to have more agencies involved in the NHAS, including the CDC, HRSA, Department of Justice, and the Department of Labor. We believe we will have bigger impact by coordinating our efforts. We've increased funding for HIV every year even when other portions of the the federal budget for other health issues have decreased. On World AIDS Day the President announced an increase in funding for ADAP by $35 million and $15 million in increased funding for Ryan White Part C clinics. We ended the HIV entry ban for people traveling to the US, and when Congress modified the policy banning Federal funding for needle exchange programs, we put out guidance to permit this funding domestically and in our global AIDS program, PEPFAR.* We're really trying to create a context for high-impact prevention.
HW: One of the major critiques of the NHAS is that it doesn't provide the kind of funding necessary to really implement the kind of effort needed to reduce incidence, and provide treatment to all people who currently have HIV. How do you see the limitations of the NHAS, or where it could go further?
JC: The strategy is really about creating a target to do better. We're really excited that the Affordable Care Act will be expanding coverage for people with HIV, but the question before us is how we implement the Affordable Care Act.
HW: One of the attacks to health care reform is coming from Republicans through demonizing Medicaid, and people who use it. We hear Democrats defend attacks against Medicare, but Medicaid has a stigma attached to it, and we hear far fewer defenses of the program. How do you think we can change the stigma around Medicaid in order to protect it?
JC: The Affordable Care Act will greatly increase the number of people eligible for health care through Medicaid, and I believe public perceptions will change when more people go into the program. I think people want other people to be able to access health care.
HW: So what's next for you after you leave your position at ONAP?
JC: This has been the most amazing experience, working in the Office of National AIDS Policy under President Obama. But what I want to do is take some time off, and figure out what's next for me.
NOTE: This interview was conducted before Congress re-instated the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs on December 15th.