Policy and Advocacy

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Policy Priorities

Lifelong is committed to expanding health care access and protecting funding for HIV/AIDS care and prevention. 

Lifelong's policy priorities are detailed below; download our 2015 Legislative Agenda for a look at our top priorities for the 2015 state legislative session.

An AIDS-Free Generation

Lifelong is leading the charge for the policies that will help End AIDS. This work starts in our own backyard: getting everyone living with HIV/AIDS diagnosed, connected to care, adherent to medication, and virally suppressed; providing the stability and support needed to stay healthy through housing and food access; advocating for quality, affordable healthcare for all; preventing new HIV infections; and ending stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). 

Lifelong is committed to bringing an end to the AIDS epidemic. There are more than 11,500 PLWHA in Washington State; with access to services and accurate and up-to-date knowledge about the HIV virus, our community can prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and work towards zero new infection rates. Together, we can implement the policies that will help bring an end to AIDS.

Preventing HIV Transmission: Adherence to Medication and Syringe Exchange Services

Treatment is Prevention: when PLWHA take anti-retroviral medications (ARVs) daily, the virus becomes suppressed and they are more than 96% less likely to transmit HIV to others. Access to HIV care not only improves the health of the individuals taking ARVs, it also helps stop the spread of HIV. Lifelong offers counseling support through the Healthy Connections Program, which is specifically tailored to connect individuals to medical care and case management services and identify and address issues that interfere with medication adherence.  

Lifelong is also committed to protecting access to syringe exchange programs, in order to prevent HIV transmission within the injection drug-using community as well as connect injection drug users to HIV testing, harm reduction, substance use treatment, and other services. Lifelong hosts a needle exchange program Monday-Saturday 6:30-8:30 p.m. sponsored by Public Health—Seattle and King County. Furthermore, Lifelong urges Congress to lift the ban on Federal funding for syringe exchange services.

To find out more about needle exchange programs in Seattle and King County, as well as organizations providing services to help address drug and alcohol use and addiction in the area, click here.

Healthcare for All

Lifelong is committed to bringing quality, affordable healthcare coverage to all Washington residents. Lifelong has been active in the state’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), maximizing the benefits of healthcare reform for people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses. However, the benefits of the ACA are not extended to certain members of our community, including recent immigrants. Lifelong strongly supports proposals like the Basic Health Option and other policy solutions to bring affordable healthcare to each and every member of our community. Healthcare Is a Right.

Lifelong empowers PLWHA by providing health care enrollment and assistance through our insurance premium assistance program, as well as In-Person Assistors to answer enrollment-related questions. Lifelong facilitates  several coalitions that work to protect vulnerable populations, including the ACA Community Workgroup, a coalition working to maximize the implementation of the ACA to best serve people living with various chronic conditions.

Universal Opt-Out Testing

Approximately 1 in 7 PLWHA in Washington are unaware of their status, endangering their own health and potentially transmitting the virus to others. When it comes to testing, many barriers exist: the stigma of being diagnosed as HIV-positive, having to discuss engaging in risky behavior, and other obstacles. Likewise, some doctors don’t talk to patients about HIV testing because they make assumptions about their patients or they don’t feel comfortable talking about risky behavior themselves.

Washington should implement universal, opt-out testing as the standard of care in all primary care settings. By including HIV testing in a regular blood panel, a patient would no longer have to specifically ask for an HIV test. This practice would remove the subjectivity from HIV testing, and get more individuals diagnosed and connected to care.

The first step to Ending AIDS is making sure that people are tested and aware of their status. For more information about testing, click here.

Comprehensive Sex-Education

Comprehensive safer sex education is a vital part of HIV/AIDS prevention. This includes training in life skills such as negotiating healthy romantic and sexual relationships, as well as clear, accurate information about how to practice safer sex. Comprehensive sex education must also include current information on HIV transmission, treatment and prevention. Lifelong’s Prevention and Education department educates people about HIV transmission and distributes safer-sex materials to gay/bi men in high-risk environments.

Research has shown that comprehensive safer sex education is more effective at preventing the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections than education that exclusively emphasizes abstinence until marriage. Young people are especially at risk: in 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 26% of all new HIV infections were youth who were 24 and younger. Lifelong’s Health Education and Youth Outreach Program (HEYO) specifically reaches out to this demographic by educating about HIV/AIDS through youth-led programs. Education breaks the cycle: by addressing HIV/AIDS education with a straightforward, sex-positive approach and providing safer-sex materials, we can curb the spread of HIV/AIDS in Washington State. 

Reducing Stigma: HIV Decriminalization

Ending the stigma around HIV/AIDS is a priority in eradicating new cases of HIV infections in Washington State. An important step toward achieving this goal is the decriminalization of HIV/AIDS. As it currently stands, Washington criminal law singles out PLWHA for unfair prosecution. These laws in Washington State perpetuate stigma and unequal treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS.

HIV criminalization laws not only stigmatize PLWHA, they discourage HIV testing. It is critical that Washington modernize our laws to decriminalize HIV, reduce stigma against PLWHA, and foster access to HIV testing. No one should be singled out for criminal prosecution because of their health status.


Safe and stable housing for PLWHA is an integral factor for ensuring medication adherence, improved health outcomes, and reduction in HIV transmission. Cuts in housing services lead to housing instability, homelessness, and falling out of care. We cannot End AIDS as long as HIV-positive individuals are unstably housed or homeless. We must invest fully in long-term housing for PLWHA.

Housing Is Health. Lifelong’s Housing Department offers three different types of housing case management for PLWHA and other chronic conditions: emergency, transitional, and permanent. Connecting PLWHA to housing contributes to lower viral loads and reduces the risk of HIV transmission. Providing safe and stable housing for PLWHA is essential to Ending AIDS in Washington State.

Access to Nutritious Food

Access to healthy food and good nutrition is vital for people living with chronic illnesses such as HIV/AIDS. Chicken Soup Brigade, Lifelong’s Food and Nutrition Services Program, addresses these needs by providing groceries, meals, and nutrition services to PLWHA and other chronic illnesses. Lifelong provides More Than a Meal: for the past 30 years, we’ve provided support for the community dedicated to bringing an End to AIDS.

Food Is Medicine. Research shows that access to food and nutrition services improve health outcomes for PLWHA. Yet food insecurity is still a major issue for PLWHA, resulting in lower rates of medication adherence and falling out of care. Lifelong engages in advocacy efforts for programming and funding to increase access to food and nutrition services. Through direct services and advocacy efforts, we can ensure that PLWHA have the nutritious food they need to lead healthier lives.

Read more about food as medicine and the work of our 2014-15 Emerson Hunger Fellow here.

Advocacy and Coalition-Building

Being informed about HIV/AIDS gives PLWHA the voice to End AIDS. Lifelong works to empower clients and community members to be informed and speak out about HIV-related issues with local and state legislators. We train consumers and allies on how to navigate the legislative process, contact legislators and other decision-makers, and effectively advocate in support of the public policies that will support and benefit people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses. No matter how much or how little experience you have with advocacy, Lifelong makes the process accessible.

By speaking out, advocates are bringing these important issues to the forefront. Voting is the first step to helping shape the policies affecting PLWHA and other chronic illnesses. Lifelong works to register our clients and community members to vote, keeps them up-to-date on important issues through advocacy alerts, and produces an educational voter guide with information about candidates and where they stand on issues that affect PLWHA. By empowering community members to advocate, we can make sure our representatives hear the voices in the HIV community and make the policy decisions that will End AIDS.

To learn more about elections and voting, click here.

Lifelong is a proud member of the Washington HIV/AIDS Community Advocacy Network (WHACAN), a statewide coalition of AIDS service organizations, providers, PLWHA, and other advocates working to protect and expand access to HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention. Visit WHACAN’s website for more information.

AIDS Action & Awareness Day

Every year on AIDS Action & Awareness Day, Lifelong and partner organizations bring community advocates to Olympia for a day-long event that includes an issues briefing and advocacy training, a rally in the Capitol, and in-person meetings with legislators to advocate for the issues that matter most to people living with and at risk of HIV/AIDS.

AIDS Action & Awareness Day is a great opportunity to connect with advocates from all across the state. We provide the transportation, advocacy trainings, t-shirts, food, and meetings with your legislators; you provide your story and your passion for HIV/AIDS issues.

By advocating, our community can make sure that our elected officials hear and respond to the needs and concerns of people affected by HIV/AIDS, including healthcare services and other critical programs that keep HIV-positive individuals healthier and living longer. Together, we can implement the policies that will help bring an End to AIDS.

You can help support these legislative priorities by subscribing to Lifelong’s Advocacy Alerts and Legislative Updates.