The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is proposing to remove non-discriminations protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity that the Obama Administration implemented through regulation in 2016. The proposed rule would allow agencies receiving taxpayer grant funding from HHS to discriminate against program participants based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This proposal could negatively impact individuals eligible for a broad range of services from HIV programs to youth homeless programs to foster care and senior care. The proposed changes would:
- Require grantees to comply only with applicable nondiscrimination provisions passed by Congress and signed into law; and
- Comply with relevant Supreme Court decisions in administering its grant programs.
By limiting protections to those required by federal statute or by Supreme Court ruling, the proposed would effectively eliminate discrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals throughout HHS grant programs, including those providing public health services such as HIV and STD prevention and treatment.
The proposed rule would perpetuate the stigma and discrimination that continues to be one of the biggest barriers to ending HIV as an epidemic in the U.S. and would put LGBTQ patients at risk of having vital services interrupted or denied.
The rule is open for comment until December 19, 2019 at 11:59 PM ET. Please consider weighing in to urge HHS to protect individuals who receive HHS-funded services from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Below are the template comments. Please modify to reflect your experience caring for people living with HIV and LGBTQ patients. Please email HIVMA’s Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager José A. Rodriguez with questions.
To submit your comments, cut and paste it into this form and follow the “Submit a Formal Comment” instructions.
RE: RIN 0991-AC16
To Whom It May Concern:
As an HIV clinician, I am writing to share my concerns regarding a proposed rule (RIN 0991-AC16) issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that would remove nondiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identify from HHS program requirements. This change could restrict access to critical health services including HIV prevention and treatment and would be a serious setback to the administration’s Ending HIV as an Epidemic initiative.
On Nov. 1, HHS announced that it would roll back a 2016 public policy requirement of HHS that protects an individual from discrimination in the administration of HHS programs and services based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Seventy percent of new HIV diagnoses are among adult and adolescent gay and bi-sexual men. This rule would permit discrimination against the population most affected by HIV at a time when an important HHS-led effort is underway to reduce new HIV infections by 75% within the next five years.
The 2016 protections are essential to ensure that people living with HIV and those at risk for HIV have access to health care services and other essential services. As a medical professional who practices HIV medicine, I have seen the negative effects of stigma and discrimination in preventing patients from accessing the services and treatment that allow them to stay healthy and that prevent HIV transmission.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns of the negative effects of discrimination towards LGBTQ individuals, which include limiting access to healthcare and contributing to mental health and substance use issues. While federal laws offer some degree of protection against these forms of discrimination, the 2016 public policy requirement ensured that they would apply clearly and consistently to all HHS grants.
I oppose the proposed rule because of the harmful impact it will have on individual and public health and urge you to withdraw the rule and maintain critical protections for LGBTQ individuals. We cannot end HIV as an epidemic in the U.S. without guaranteeing non-discrimination protections for all including LGBTQ individuals.
Full Name and Credentials
CDC. HIV and Bi-sexual Men. Online at: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/msm/index.html
CDC. Stigma and Discrimination. Online at: https://www.cdc.gov/msmhealth/stigma-and-discrimination.htm.