Monday, August 4, 2008

Senator Obama Responds to 40% Reported Increase in Domestic HIV/AIDS Cases

Chicago, IL -- Senator Obama released the following statement on the Center for Disease Control's report about new cases of HIV/AIDS in the United States.

"We have now learned that 56,300 new HIV infections occurred in the United States in 2006, not 40,000 that had been previously cited. These new figures should bring new focus to our efforts to address AIDS and HIV here at home.

"As president, I am committed to developing a National AIDS Strategy to decrease new HIV infections and improve health outcomes for Americans living with HIV/AIDS. Across the nation, we also need to prevent the spread of HIV and get people into treatment by expanding access to testing and comprehensive education programs. This report also demonstrates the need for more timely data about HIV transmission so that we can effectively evaluate prevention efforts.

"Combating HIV/AIDS also demands closing the gaps in opportunity that exist in our society so that we can strengthen our public health. We must also overcome the stigma that surrounds HIV/AIDS – a stigma that is too often tied to homophobia. We need to encourage folks to get tested and accelerate HIV/AIDS research toward an effective cure because we have a moral obligation to join together to meet this
challenge, and to do so with the urgency this epidemic demands."

To read the Obama plan to fight HIV/AIDS, click here.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Barack Obama on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

In commemoration of National Black HIV / AIDS Awareness Day, Senator Barack Obama sent a letter to the Black AIDS Institute in Los Angeles, which will be read at their ceremony this evening honoring numerous "Heroes in the Struggle" against this ongoing epidemic. Here are excerpts from the letter, which may also be found at

HIV/AIDS is appropriately described as a global challenge. Yet we know that the struggle against HIV/AIDS is not distant – our determination to take action must begin in our own communities.

A report released a few months ago on the state of HIV/AIDS in the District of Columbia makes this point painfully clear. Over 12,500 people living in the District are known to have HIV/AIDS. One in 20 residents has HIV, and 1 in 50 has AIDS – the highest rate of infection of any city in the country. The impact is particularly grave in the African American community, as more than 80 percent of HIV cases identified in the District between 2001 and 2006 were African Americans.

The report correctly describes this as "a modern epidemic." But reports like this not only rouse our collective conscience – they provide us with a real opportunity to understand the challenge before us. A close look at the data reveals that HIV/AIDS infection rates cut across different divides – men and women, young and old, heterosexual and homosexual. This trend is not unique to the District – there are more than a million Americans infected with HIV/AIDS.

Confronting this kind of crisis demands a comprehensive approach. We need aggressive federal action that is matched with state and local initiatives. That starts with testing. Across the nation, we need to prevent the spread of HIV – and get people into treatment – by expanding access to testing.

In preventing the spread of infection, we must not force ourselves to choose between values and science. Abstinence education should always be a core part of any strategy to curb sexually transmitted diseases. We also need to support common sense approaches. Age-appropriate sex education should include information about contraception. The JUSTICE Act – pending in the Congress – would combat infection within our prison population through education and contraception. Local governments can protect public health by distributing contraceptives. Finally, we need to lift the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users.

As the Black AIDS Institute understands better than most, combating HIV/AIDS also demands combating the disparities in our society. The virus often lurks in corners of America – and the world – where poverty, lack of education, and homelessness prey upon people. That's why fighting HIV/AIDS must include making health care affordable and accessible for all Americans, covering low-income HIV patients with Medicaid, and supporting programs to provide housing for people with HIV/AIDS. If we leave people without hope or help, we will not turn the corner against this epidemic. If we work to close the gaps in opportunity that exist in our society, then we can strengthen our public health while lifting up our communities.

One of those gaps is the disturbing prevalence of HIV/AIDS among African Americans. In 2005, 64 percent of women living with HIV/AIDS in America were black. It is not enough for us to call this an outrage, or even to provide more access to education, health care, and economic development. We have to overcome the stigma that surrounds HIV/AIDS in the African-American community – a stigma that is too often tied to homophobia. We need to talk about HIV/AIDS in our homes, in our schools, and in our churches. We need to encourage folks to get tested – which is why my wife, Michelle, and I were tested for HIV during a trip to Kenya. In short, we have to take this on clearly and directly.

What the heroes being honored tonight – and all of us – understand is that every time someone is infected with HIV/AIDS, they are infected with a virus that could have been prevented. Every time someone dies of AIDS untreated, they are dying prematurely. So we have a moral obligation to join together to meet this challenge – in our communities, our country, and around the world – with what Dr. King called "the fierce urgency of now." If we can do that, we can be the generation that reclaims the future from this modern epidemic.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Will Huckabee Honor His Word?

Advocacy Groups, Jeanne White-Ginder Still Waiting to Meet with Gov. Huckabee, but after two letters by the Human Rights Campaign and The AIDS Institute, the Huckabee campaign has not responded

WASHINGTON – One week after requesting to meet with Republican presidential candidate Governor Mike Huckabee, Jeanne White-Ginder, the mother of Ryan White, the Human Rights Campaign or The AIDS Institute, still have not heard from Gov. Huckabee or his campaign. The meeting was called in response to Gov. Huckabee’s 1992 remarks, that he refused to repudiate, when he said people living with HIV and AIDS should have been “isolated” even after it was determined the virus was not spread through casual contact. The morning after HRC and The AIDS Institute sent a letter to the Huckabee campaign requesting a meeting, the Governor said, “I would be very willing to meet with them.”

On Saturday, a field representative working for the Human Rights Campaign approached Huckabee during a campaign stop at the Berlin New Hampshire Technical College, located in Berlin, NH. The staffer asked, “I know that you said you are willing to meet with Ryan White's mother, when will you be meeting with her?” Huckabee answered, “Well I don't know how to get in touch with her.” The staffer offered to provide contact information and Huckabee called over Christopher Herr, the campaign’s New Hampshire field manager. She provided the information to Mr. Herr while Huckabee moved on.

“Seven days after we asked Governor Huckabee to meet with Jeanne White-Ginder, she is still waiting to hear from him or anyone on his campaign,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “As we’ve said, this is not an issue of ‘political correctness.’ Rather, this is an issue of valuing science-based evidence over unfounded fear or prejudice. If Gov. Huckabee is a man of his word, then he’ll stop stalling and stand by his pledge and immediately reach out to Jeanne.”

“We are very disappointed that Governor Huckabee has not taken steps to meet with Jeanne White-Ginder after indicating he was willing to do so,” said Gene Copello, Executive Director of The AIDS Institute. “HRC and The AIDS Institute sent two letters to Governor Huckabee with the necessary information about how we could facilitate a meeting with Ms. White-Ginder, who is a board member of The AIDS Institute. It is important to Ms. White-Ginder, whose young son, Ryan White, suffered undue discrimination because of prejudice and fear, for this meeting to occur. Since the 1980s we have had good scientific evidence about how AIDS is transmitted and how it is not. Even in the face of such evidence, discrimination against women, men, and children living with HIV/AIDS continues today. Calls for isolation and quarantine not only fly in the face of scientific evidence, they also reinforce prejudice and fear. This is our third request to meet with Governor Huckabee and we will continue to advocate strongly for this meeting until it happens.”

“Over 1.2 million people in our country are living with HIV/AIDS. It’s hard to imagine that a serious Presidential candidate would stand by a statement to ‘isolate’ our fellow Americans, and then ignore offers from Ryan White’s mother, Jeanne White-Ginder, to meet so she can educate Governor Huckabee about the devastating impact of this disease,” said Rebecca Haag, Executive Director of AIDS Action in Washington, D.C. “This nation needs a results-oriented national strategy to end this tragedy. Blaming the victim is not constructive; strong political leadership is needed. The Governor does not appear to be up to the task.”

As a candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in 1992, Huckabee answered 229 questions submitted to him by The Associated Press. The Senate candidate wrote: “It is difficult to understand the public policy towards AIDS. It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents.”

“When Huckabee wrote his answers in 1992, it was common knowledge that AIDS could not be spread by casual contact,” the Associated Press reported, December 8, 2007. In a FOX News interview on Sunday, December 9, Huckabee stood by his remarks. Watch the interview here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Huckabee Says He Will Not 'Recant' 1992 Comments on HIV/AIDS

Kaiser Daily: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, on Sunday said that he will not "recant" statements made in 1992 in which he called for people living with HIV/AIDS to be isolated from the general population, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports. Huckabee -- who made the statements in an Associated Press survey while running for Senate that year -- wrote that in order for the federal government to effectively address the spread of HIV, "we need to take steps that would isolate the carries of this plague." He added in the survey, "It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents" (AP/International Herald Tribune, 12/9).

Huckabee in the 1992 survey also said that HIV/AIDS research was receiving too much federal funding, The Politico reports. "In light of the extraordinary funds already being given for AIDS research, it does not seem that additional federal spending can be justified," Huckabee wrote. "An alternative would be to request that multimillionaire celebrities -- such as Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna and others who are pushing for more AIDS funding -- be encouraged to give out of their own personal treasuries increased amounts for AIDS research," he added (Allen, The Politico, 12/8). In addition, Huckabee in the survey said that homosexuality was an "aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public health risk," the Washington Post reports.

Campaign Response

Huckabee's campaign on Saturday released a statement from him saying that in 1992 there was confusion over how HIV is transmitted. "We now know that the virus that causes AIDS is spread differently, with a lower level of contact than with TB," Huckabee said in the statement, adding, "But looking back almost 20 years, my concern was the uncertain risk to the general population -- if we got it wrong, many people would die needlessly." (of course, Huckabee's statement is dead wrong because we knew a whole lot more about HIV/AIDS in 1992 than his statement suggests). Huckabee also pledged to make the fight against HIV/AIDS a central part of his presidency if elected (Bacon, Washington Post, 12/9). Huckabee in the statement released Saturday added that his "concern was safety first, political correctness last." Huckabee responded to the 1992 Associated Press survey after it was "well established" that HIV could not be spread through casual contact, the New York Times reports (Luo, New York Times, 12/9). In addition, Huckabee responded to the 1992 survey more than one year after President George H.W. Bush called on Congress to "get on with the job of passing a law" to prohibit discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, according to the AP/Herald Tribune. Although Huckabee acknowledged the prevailing scientific view in 1992, and since, that HIV is not transmitted through casual contact, he said he was not certain at the time. Huckabee cited a 1991 report of a dentist who infected a patient with HIV -- an "extraordinary case that highlighted the risk of infection through contact with blood or bodily fluids" -- according to the AP/Herald Tribune.

Huckabee in an interview with Fox News Channel's "Fox News Sunday" said, "I still believe this today" that "we were acting more out of political correctness" in responding to HIV/AIDS. "I don't run from it, I don't recant it," he said of his statements in 1992. He added that his comments were not meant as a call to quarantine HIV-positive people. "I didn't say we should quarantine," Huckabee said, adding that his idea was not to "lock people up" (AP/International Herald Tribune, 12/9). However, Huckabee added that he would state his position "a little differently" today, the Wall Street Journal reports (Meckler, Wall Street Journal, 12/10).

A transcript of the "Fox News Sunday" segment is available online.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

New Yorkers Say Giuliani Showed "Zero Concern" for People Living with AIDS

GiulianiFrom Kaiser Daily: NewYork City-based HIV/AIDS advocacy group Housing Works recently criticized former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, for his work on HIV/AIDS issues while in office, the Boston Globe reports. Giuliani "showed absolutely zero concern for people living with AIDS and HIV" during his eight years as mayor, Housing Works President Charles King said. He added, "We had to litigate against him from the beginning of his term to force his administration to follow New York law with regard to the provision of services and care to persons with AIDS and HIV."

Giuliani on World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 said that if he is elected president, he would "continue America's life-saving role as a leader in the global fight against HIV/AIDS until the day humanity can declare victory against this deadly disease." However, King said Giuliani's statements are "gross hypocrisy." According to King, Giuliani's administration withdrew the group's city contracts as punishment for its "frequent, very aggressive criticism" of Giuliani and his policies, the Globe reports.

In 2005, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's (R) administration settled a lawsuit for $4.8 million that Housing Works had filed against Giuliani's administration over the contracts dispute, but the city did not acknowledge any misconduct in the case, the Globe reports. Maria Comella, Giuliani's campaign spokesperson, said funding levels for HIV/AIDS-related services remained consistent while Giuliani was in office. In addition, the Giuliani administration maintained at the time that Housing Works' contracts were terminated because of mismanagement.

Housing Works also was among several organizations to file lawsuits against Giuliani's administration on free speech issues, the Globe reports. The group won federal court approval in 1998 to use the plaza outside City Hall for World AIDS Day observance, but Giuliani had closed the area for public demonstration citing terrorist threats, according to the Globe. King said that his group was "surrounded by police in riot gear" and confined in penned areas during the event. Comella said that as "a precautionary measure," groups using City Hall for rallies and demonstrations were "all asked to use the same safety procedures while using the space" (Mooney, Boston Globe, 12/7).

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

AIDS Advocates Launch

AIDS Vote The Web site -- launched by Housing Works, Gay Men's Health Crisis and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago -- is a nonpartisan voter and candidate education project. The site includes the results of a poll conducted among 16 presidential candidates about HIV/AIDS issues. It also includes GMHC's report about candidates' views on HIV/AIDS topics, as well as a chart that compares the candidates' HIV/AIDS-related voting record and positions. The site will track the candidates' positions up until the November 2008 election. Visit the site at

Friday, November 30, 2007

Democratic Presidential Candidates Respond To Questions About Needle-Exchange Programs, Sex Education

aidsvote.gifFrom Kaiser Daily: Most Democratic presidential candidates would support lifting a ban on federal funding for needle-exchange programs and replacing abstinence-only sex education with comprehensive HIV prevention programs if elected, according to a survey released Wednesday ahead of World AIDS Day, the AP/Sioux City Journal reports. The survey was conducted by AIDS Project of Central Iowa, Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa and several other groups in the state. It included three questions and was sent to Democratic and Republican presidential candidates (AP/Sioux City Journal, 11/29).

The questions are:

  • Do you support the Early Treatment for HIV Act (ETHA), which expands Medicaid for HIV-positive people who would otherwise need to become completely disabled in order to qualify for Medicaid-covered services?
  • Do you support the replacement of funding for international and domestic "abstinence only" HIV prevention programs with scientifically based, comprehensive, age-appropriate sexuality education programs?
  • Do you support access to sterile syringes, as a means of protecting public health, by lifting the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange? (Survey text, 11/28).
Among the Democratic candidates, Sen. Joe Biden (Del.), former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson met the deadline for the survey and all answered "yes" to the three questions. Answers from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) were too late to be included in materials distributed by the coalition. However, her campaign "did respond 'yes' to the questions" after the deadline, Becky Johnson with the AIDS Project of Central Iowa said.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, both of whom are running for the Republican presidential nomination, declined to answer the questionnaire. The remaining Republican and Democratic candidates did not respond, according to the AP/Journal.

The coalition in a statement said there has been a "lack of leadership at all levels that has allowed HIV to continue to spread through inaction and failed promises." The other agencies involved in the questionnaire include the American Red Cross Central Iowa Chapter, Lutheran Services in Iowa Refugee Cooperative, Urban Dreams, Community HIV/Hepatitis Advocates of Iowa Network and Creative Visions (AP/Sioux City Journal, 11/29).

The survey is available online.

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