New AIDS Czar Widely Praised by Advocates

Julie Davids

Today, the Obama Administration announced the appointment of longtime HIV/AIDS health care advocate Jeff Crowley to head the long-vacant Office of National AIDS Policy.

Today, the Obama
Administration announced
the appointment of longtime HIV/AIDS health care advocate Jeff Crowley to head
the long-vacant Office
of National AIDS Policy (ONAP)

which is charged with developing the National
AIDS Strategy.

Crowley, M.P.H., is a Senior Research
Scholar at Georgetown
University’s Health Policy Institute

and a Senior Scholar at the O’Neill
Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University
Law Center.

"This is brilliant," was the reaction
of David Munar, who chairs the National
Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA),

where Crowley worked from 1994-2000. "The Administration made a strategic
choice about someone who knows health care above all else, so they got
a two-fer: he is passionate about HIV, and he knows health care systems.
This means the office will be relevant. He will champion us and our
needs in the health care reform process."

Advocates note that ONAP had already
gained relevance in the eyes of the Administration due to the AIDS community’s
work to secure $1.4 million for the development of the National AIDS Strategy (NAS) in the upcoming
omnibus budget bill, which is poised go into effect on March 6 when
the continuing resolution ends.

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The Domestic
Policy Council,

where ONAP is based, had been eviscerated during the Bush years, and
those who have spoken with Council staff have said that they are appreciative
of the resources and are committed to the NAS process.

Advocates anticipate that the funding,
which has to be obligated (committed to specific spending if not literally
spent) by the end of the fiscal year on September 30, could pay for
a six or seven staff members for ONAP. It could also go towards the
additional costs of establishing a cross-government/community
, which is the structure
that the Coalition for a National AIDS Strategy (of which I am a member)
has recommended to develop and monitor the NAS.

"Clearly, health care will be a cornerstone
of a successful NAS," noted Chris Collins, "Jeff’s appointment
is great news and I look forward to working with him to create a NAS
that brings more accountability, coordination and an orientation to
outcomes in our response to HIV in the United States."

Collins was one of the other candidates
interviewed for the ONAP post. For the past week, those involved in
Federal AIDS policy had heard that the appointment was imminent, and
that a small number of people had been interviewed for the position,
including Collins and Jesse Milan, chair of the board of Black AIDS Institute. But many advocates expressed surprise at
Crowley’s appointment, as there had been no buzz that he was a candidate
or they had assumed he would be appointed at the Centers
for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS).

The White House release cites Crowley’s
primary areas of expertise as "Medicaid policy, including Medicaid
prescription drug policies; Medicare policy; and consumer education
and training."

And indeed, those who have worked with
him on these issues were clearly excited, even gushing, about the appointment,
including Robert Greenwald, Director of the Treatment
Access Expansion Project (TAEP).

"I think it’s amazing," said
Greenwald. "He is one of the most hardworking, diligent, non-ego-involved
people I’ve ever worked with, just a good person. I can’t even believe
it. He’s incredibly plugged into the community."

While Crowley helped to develop the National HIV Testing Day
during his tenure
at NAPWA, those who have worked closely with him in recent years do
note that prevention is not his main area of expertise.

But Munar, calling Crowley an "instrumental
team player," says he expects that, far from having a deaf ear towards
prevention, Crowley recognizes its importance, will bring in those who
know it well and will talk about it from a health care perspective,
emphasizing a cost-savings paradigm that he believes will resonate well.

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