In 2020, the Policy Department underwent several changes. First, Carl Baloney Jr. was promoted to be our vice president of Policy and Advocacy. That same month, the policy department released opposition to the Medicaid block grants and denounced the public charge rule.
Then came March of 2020. By the end of the first week of March, we knew that it would be critical to protect the HIV community, forcing the policy team to pull off the seemingly impossible — move AIDSWatch to an all virtual event.
We pulled off an all virtual AIDSWatch in two weeks that over 900 people registered for and another 2,500 people attended via zoom or Facebook Live. Later, in April, our advocates sent over 8,000 letters to members of Congress, advocating for assistance during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. We also kicked off webinars through the Relief, Recovery and Resilience fund, sharing information with those across the HIV sector while we were unable to be together.
Later that spring, we added three members to the team. The Public Policy Council created the Racial Justice Index Committee and released a statement around molecular HIV surveillance.
2020 was a wild year, but we closed the year strong. The Policy Department led the first ever second iteration of AIDSWatch, titled AIDSWatch: Road to Resiliency. This allowed the reconvening of HIV advocates across the country as we prepared for the 2020 election.
We endured through the election night and continued to monitor changes throughout what ended up feeling like election week. The policy team was then busy making connections with newly elected officials offices and pushing for a reinstatement of the Office of National AIDS Policy within the Biden-Harris administration.
While 2020 was full of unexpected surprises, we were thrilled to be able to advocate for all people living with and vulnerable to HIV.