Thursday, December 6, 2007

Where Do They Stand on HIV?

Almost every issue contains within it a certain degree of politics as voters prepare to cast the first votes in the 2008 election cycle in Iowa and New Hampshire. And HIV and AIDS is unfortunately no exception as depicted in my story posted earlier this week. Stay tuned...

With less than a month until Iowans cast the first votes in the 2008 presidential campaign, activists across the country continue to call upon White House hopefuls on both sides of the aisle to address the AIDS epidemic on the campaign trail.

Housing Works, the Gay Men's Health Crisis and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago released the findings of a survey of 16 leading Democratic and Republican presidential candidates late last month ahead of World AIDS Day that asked them to detail their positions on federal funding of needle exchange programs, appropriations for so-called science-based prevention programs and other issues that are part of a comprehensive national AIDS strategy. Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton [D-N.Y.], former U.S. Sen. John Edwards [D-N.C.], U.S. Sen. Barack Obama [D-Ill.] and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich [D-Ohio] answered the questions. U.S. Sen. Joe Biden [D-Del.] provided a written statement, while the leading GOP candidates failed to respond. also details each candidate's positions on HIV and AIDS-related issues throughout their political careers.

"More than ever, the American public is calling for a meaningful health care reform which includes bold leadership in the area of AIDS," GMHC Chief Operating Officer Robert Bank said in a statement. "Voters need to know what the candidates will do to fight AIDS when determining their readiness to be president."

David Ernesto Munar, vice president of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, agreed. " wants to make sure that whoever moves into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in January 2009 will make ending the AIDS epidemic a top priority," he said. "It's a matter of life and death."

The AIDS Foundation of Chicago, GMHC and Housing Works revealed the findings of their survey a day after Clinton announced her plan to combat HIV and AIDS in the United States and around the world during a campaign stop in South Carolina. It includes doubling the amount of money allocated to HIV and AIDS research at the National Institutes of Health to $5.2 billion annually and a pledge of $50 billion to combat the global epidemic by 2013.

Obama and Edwards announced their plans earlier this fall. AIDS Action Executive Director Rebecca Haag, who is also a member of Clinton's LGBT advisory committee, applauded the Democratic candidates' efforts to highlight HIV and AIDS during an interview with from the Democratic National Committee's fall meeting in Northern Virginia.

"I am very happy to report that every major Democratic candidate has come out in support of a national AIDS strategy," she said. "Each of the major candidates [Clinton, Obama and Edwards] has now issued their own platforms which go beyond the national domestic epidemic. From a presidential point of view, all Democrats are out on the trail talking about HIV."

More than an estimated million people live with HIV and AIDS in the United States while 40,000 people test HIV-positive each year. People of color comprise nearly half of all new infections while HIV and AIDS was the leading cause of death among women of color between 25 and 34 in 2004.

The National Black Justice Coalition will include HIV and AIDS-related issues in a voter guide it plans to disseminate ahead of the election. NBJC Chief Operating Officer Earl Plante stressed that a candidate's position on these issues could determine his organization's presidential endorsement. "We are willing and able and at their disposal to engage on the HIV and AIDS issue," he said. "We think it's long past due in terms of having a dialogue around increases in treatment, care, prevention and research."

Haag conceded Republican candidates have not given HIV and AIDS the same attention on the campaign trail as their Democratic counterparts. But she remains hopeful, however, that her organization and others across the country will continue to successfully raise these issues among all leading White House hopefuls.

"We have always had bi-partisan support for this issue," Haag concluded. "We believe the American people want this issue solved [and] we will continue to press the candidates."

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Montag said...

One gets the impression that Republicans have conceptual problems with HIV due to its origins in what they consider a louche environment.
Given the ages of the candidates, they seem to think that if they spoke of it, the electorate would see and hear them as latter day incarnations of The Village People.

Then there was the Haitian connection, and this gives the impression of creating a program exclusively for gays and blacks... a sort of a mad boondoggle and government give-away to the lucky devils who were fortunate enough to contract the diseases.

I do not expect any Republican statements any time soon, although we may see statements about HIV/AIDS in foreign lands, say Africa. That would be safe.