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 AIDSvote.org

AIDS Vote 2008AIDSVote.org: 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 www.aidsvote.org.

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.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hillary Clinton to Talk About HIV/AIDS at Evangelical Mega-Church

hillaryclinton.gifHillary Clinton will be participating in a Global Summit on HIV/AIDS and the Church, according to a report in Newsmax.  Clinton was invited to speak by evangelical power-player Pastor Rick Warren.  The event takes place at Warren’s Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.

Warren is best known as the other of The Purpose Driven Life, and been a strong HIV Advocate for HIV/AIDS.  Warren has often criticized the evangelical church, and Baptists, in particular for being  "known for what we’re against rather than what we’re for.”

This is not the first time a Presidential Candidate has appeared at the Saddleback Church.  Barack Obama appeared at the 2006 Summit on HIV/AIDS, where he delivered his most substantive speech on HIV/AIDS of this campaign.

Evangelicals were once considered the core of the Republican Party, but are now considered a more diverse group of voters.  Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean recently addressed the National Baptist Convention, and the Democrats Faith in Action Program, created by Dean, has been reaching out to people of all faiths.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Giuliani HIV/AIDS Advisor: Cause for Concern

From Kaiser: A recent opinion piece by Sally Pipes -- president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, a think tank that receives some funding from drug companies -- about intellectual property rights and compulsory licenses for patented antiretroviral drugs is "frightening," Andrew Green, a publishing fellow, writes in the American Prospect. If Pipes were "just running a think tank with pharmaceutical funding, it could be read as a shill piece and dismissed. But there's more to Pipes' biography: She is also a health care adviser to Rudy Giuliani," the former New York City mayor who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, Green adds (Green, American Prospect, 11/15).

In her opinion piece, Pipes says it was a "staggering display of cluelessness" for Rep. Tom Allen (D-Maine) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) to sponsor a resolution that praises the Thai government for its decision to issue compulsory licenses to make generic versions of patented antiretroviral drugs. She adds that Thailand's actions "threaten to upset the economic incentives that allow Western firms to produce novel cures," saying, "Without patent protections, the drug industry as we know it would collapse, and development of new drugs would be significantly curtailed" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/18).

Pipes opinion piece "can be read both as a signal that her role is expanding and as a preview of the HIV/AIDS policy she is encouraging Giuliani to adopt, specifically one without regard for the immediate need for as many cheap generic antiretrovirals as possible," Green writes. According to Green, while this is "cause for concern," the "real crisis" is that "Giuliani might actually be receptive to her arguments."

Giuliani has "expressed an interest in continuing and possibly expanding the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief," but it is "apparent" he has "thought little about what that actually means," Green says. In addition, Giuliani has not described his HIV prevention strategy or whether he would expand treatment options, according to Green. "His lack of investment or concern about the issue leaves him vulnerable to insiders like Pipes, whose business-first agendas are prepackaged," Green writes. He adds that it is "not outlandish to think that [Giuliani] might make AIDS relief contingent on buying brand-name antiretrovirals" or "levy trade restrictions and financial penalties on countries, like Thailand, that determine the best way to immediately reach the most HIV/AIDS patients is to produce their own antiretrovirals."

Green suggests that all presidential candidates "study the AIDS policy Democrat John Edwards has introduced," adding that the "first move Giuliani should make, though, is to send Pipes back to the sideline and hire some advisers whose values aren't predicated on profit margins" (American Prospect, 11/15).

Monday, November 5, 2007

HIV/AIDS Advocate Joines Rudy Giuliani Campaign

The Rudy Guiliani campaign announced on Friday that openly gay Republican Party activist Carl Schmid has joined the Guiliani campaign as a co-chair of the campaign's DC leadership team.

Carl Schmid stated “As Mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani cut taxes, cut crime, and got hundreds of thousands of people off the welfare rolls and back to work all while working with a heavily Democratic City Council. That’s the kind of strong leadership we need in the White House.”

Schmid currently serves as the Director of Federal Affairs for the AIDS Institute, a conservative-leaning national HIV/AIDS advocacy organization.

Schmid, a 2004 delegate to the Republican National Convention, has played an active role in the DC Republican Party.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hillary Clinton Endorses 08 Stop AIDS Platform

Forbes Magazine reports that Hillary Clinton has signed the 08 Stop AIDS platform, committing to support $50 billion dollars by 2013 to fight the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Clinton joins John Edwards & Bill Richardson in supporting $50 billion over five years to fight HIV/AIDS globally. Edwards released his plan to fight HIV/AIDS in September which included the $50 billion goal and other 08 Stop AIDS goals, though he has not formally endorsed the platform. Bill Richardson endorsed the platform earlier this year.

While Obama released his plan to fight HIV/AIDS in October, it did not include the $50 billion commitment. AIDS activists who have talked to him on the campaign trail report he has been unwilling to commit to a specific amount.

Unlike Obama & Edwards, the Clinton campaign has not yet released their own HIV/AIDS agenda. Activists had planned to target Clinton at a protest at the October 30th Democratic Presidential Debate. With news of the Clinton endorsement of 08 Stop AIDS, the demonstration will focus more broadly on raising awareness of HIV/AIDS in the 2008 campaign.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Mike Huckabee Compares Safe Sex to Domestic Violence and Drunk Driving

With Sam Brownback, the darling of the religious right, pulling out of the race for the White House, the right appears to be giving Mike Huckabee a second look. Frontrunners Giuliani and Romney are suspect among the "republican wing of the republican party" due to their past history of tolerance towards the LGBT community. Huckabee, however, has an anti-gay track record. And as a Baptist Minister, he has instant credibility with the right.

So while Brownback considers endorsing Giuliani, Mike Huckabee continues to say all the things the religious right wants to hear, including support for federal funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.

Overwhelming evidence tells us abstinence-only programs do not work. Even a 10-year study funded by Congress itself, shows that they these programs don't work, and they might as well be throwing the money out the window.

Huckabee, however, recently told the Christian Broadcasting Network:"Abstinence education provides a valuable counterweight to peer pressure and the message young people get from the popular culture encouraging casual relationships and separating sex from love, commitment and marriage. I do not believe in teaching about sex or contraception in public schools. That is the responsibility of parents. "I am disappointed that funding for abstinence education is not likely to be renewed by the Democrat Congress. This reversal only emphasizes how important it is for Republicans to take back Congress and win the White House with an authentic conservative in 2008."I miss the America I grew up in where the Gideons gave Bibles to fifth graders instead of school nurses giving condoms to eighth graders. With so much at stake, it's important that we return to the core values and guiding principles which have made our country great."

In fact, the metaphor-inclined Huckabee, recently went so far as to compare safe-sex to domestic violence and drunk driving. Huffington Post reports that at a recent campaign stop, Huckabee was asked if his religious views would get in the way of funding HIV prevention. His answer in part:

"If we really are serious about stopping a problem, whether it's drunk driving...we don't say "Don't drive 'as drunk'?" ...This is an illogical thing that we apply to that one area that we don't apply to any other area. And I'm open-minded to all the arguments, if someone can convince me a little reckless behavior is OK. Maybe that's the message. But it would seem to me that if we're consistent in saying reckless behavior is undesirable we should ask people to move their behavior to the standard and not move the standard to the behavior...We don't say that a little domestic violence is OK, just cut it down a little, just don't hit quite as hard. We say it's wrong."

You can see the video of the exchange here

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Barack Obama Plan to Fight HIV/AIDS

The following is a reprint of the Barack Obama Plant to Fight HIV/AIDS, released in October, 2007

Barack Obama, Fighthing HIV/AIDS Worldwide

“We are all sick because of AIDS - and we are all tested by this crisis. It is a test not only of our willingness to respond, but of our ability to look past the artificial divisions and debates that have often shaped that response. When you go to places like Africa and you see this problem up close, you realize that it's not a question of either treatment or prevention – or even what kind of prevention – it is all of the above. It is not an issue of either science or values – it is both. Yes, there must be more money spent on this disease. But there must also be a change in hearts and minds, in cultures and attitudes. Neither philanthropist nor scientist, neither government nor church, can solve this problem on their own - AIDS must be an all-hands-on-deck
effort.” -Barack Obama, World AIDS Day Speech, Lake Forest, CA, 12/1/06


There are 40 million people across the planet infected with HIV/AIDS, including more than 1 million people in the U.S., with nearly 8,000 people dying every day of AIDS. Barack Obama believes that we must do more to fight the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, as well as malaria and tuberculosis. In 2006, Obama traveled to Kenya and, along with his wife Michelle, took an HIV/AIDS test to encourage African men and women to be tested for the disease. Obama believes in working across party lines to combat this epidemic and joined Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) at a large California evangelical church to promote greater investment in the global AIDS battle. As president, Obama will continue to be a global leader in the fight against AIDS.


Develop a National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Obama has pledged that, in the first year of his presidency, he will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care, and reduce HIV-related health disparities. His strategy will include measurable goals, timelines, and accountability mechanisms.

Fix the Nation’s Health Care System: 47 million Americans are uninsured in this country. Barack Obama is committed to signing universal health care legislation by the end of his first term in office that ensures all Americans have high-quality, affordable health care coverage. Obama’s plan will save a typical American family up to $2,500 every year on medical expenditures by providing affordable, comprehensive and portable health coverage for every American; modernizing the U.S. health care system to contain spiraling health care costs and improve the quality of patient care; and promoting prevention and strengthening public health to prevent disease and protect against natural and man-made disasters. His health plan will ensure that people living with HIV have access to lifesaving treatment and care.

Fight Disparities: HIV has hit some communities harder than others. For example, while African-Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 49 percent of new HIV/AIDS cases. AIDS is the leading cause of death in African-American women aged 25-34, and the third leading cause of death in African-American men in the same age group. In 2005, 64 percent of women living with HIV/AIDS were black. Obama will tackle the root causes of health disparities by addressing differences in access to health coverage and promoting prevention and public health, both of which play a major role in addressing disparities. He will also challenge the medical system to eliminate inequities in health care through quality measurement and reporting, implementation of effective interventions such as patient navigation programs and diversification of the health workforce.

Improve Quality of Life for Those Living with HIV/AIDS: Obama is a strong supporter of the Ryan White Care Act (RWCA), which provides critical access to life-saving treatment and care for over half a million lowincome Americans with HIV/AIDS. The RWCA is one of the largest sources of federal funds for primary health care and support services for patients with HIV/AIDS. The bill was named after Ryan White, an Indiana teenager whose courageous struggle with HIV/AIDS helped educate the nation. Throughout the reauthorization process of the RWCA, Obama worked closely with RWCA service providers, the Chicago Department ofPublic Health, and the Illinois Department of Public Health to analyze and find ways to improve the program for Illinois and for the nation. Obama will continue to protect the multifaceted care upon which RWCA beneficiaries depend.

Assure Adequate and Safe Housing for Those Living With HIV: Obama supports increased funding for Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) and other pertinent housing programs. These programs aim to assure that adequate and safe housing is available for all disabled and low-income people with HIV/AIDS in the U.S.

Expand Funding for Research: Barack Obama will expand funding for research, especially for prevention options including a vaccine and microbicides. Microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women apply topically to prevent transmission of HIV and other infections. Obama led an effort with Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and others to introduce the Microbicide Development Act, which will accelerate the development of products that empower women in the battle against AIDS. In the United States, the percentage of women diagnosed with AIDS has quadrupled over the last 20 years. Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses.

Promote AIDS Prevention: In addition to assuring access to treatment, Obama believes we need to increase the focus on preventing new infections. We cannot keep pace with treatment needs if we don’t also focus on prevention. This means pursuing a strategy that relies on sound science and builds on what works. Obama supports comprehensive sex education that is age-appropriate. He supports increasing federal appropriations for science-based HIV prevention programs. Obama supports the JUSTICE Act, which would prevent transmission of HIV within the incarcerated population. He also supports legislation that would lift the ban on federal funding for needle exchange as a strategy to reduce HIV transmission among injection drug users and their partners and children.

Bring Medicaid Coverage to Low-Income, HIV-Positive Americans: Obama is a co-sponsor of the Early Treatment of HIV Act, which would provide Medicaid coverage to more low-income, HIV-positive Americans.


Reauthorize and Revise PEPFAR: The U.S. has dramatically increased funding for global HIV and AIDS programs through the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), but the program has faced controversy. Obama believes that our first priority should be to reauthorize PEPFAR when it expires in 2008 and rewrite much of the bill to allow best practices – not ideology – to drive funding for HIV/AIDS programs.

In addition, Obama supports adding an additional $1 billion a year in new money over the next five years to strengthen and expand the program to Southeast Asia, India, and Eastern Europe, where the pandemic is expanding.

Increase Investments for HIV Treatment: Barack Obama is committed to increasing U.S. investments in the capacity building needed to ensure that poor countries are able to develop the health care infrastructure necessary to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, promote basic health care, reduce the spread of malaria and TB, and prevent and, if necessary, contain the spread of avian flu and other pandemics.

Increase Contribution to the Global Fund: Obama supports increasing U.S. contributions to the Global Fund for AIDS, malaria, and TB so that our assistance is coordinated with aid provided by other governments and private donors and so that the burden on poor countries is reduced.

Provide Access Through Trade: Barack Obama believes that people in developing countries living with HIV/AIDS should have access to safe, affordable generic drugs to treat HIV/AIDS. He will break the stranglehold that a few big drug and insurance companies have on these life-saving drugs. Obama supports the rights of sovereign nations to access quality-assured, low-cost generic medication to meet their pressing public health needs under the WTO’s Declaration on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). He also supports the adoption of humanitarian licensing policies that ensure medications developed with U.S. taxpayer dollars are available off-patent in developing countries.

Achieve the Millennium Development Goals: As president, Barack Obama will double U.S. foreign assistance from $25 billion per year to $50 billion per year to ensure the U.S. does its share to meet the Millennium Development Goals, including halving the number of people who die of tuberculosis and/or are affected by malaria. In 2005, Obama cosponsored the International Cooperation to Meet the Millennium Development Goals Act. Barack Obama will target this new spending toward strategic goals, including helping the world’s weakest states to build healthy and educated communities, reduce poverty, develop markets, and generate wealth. He will also help weak states to fight terrorism, halt the spread of deadly weapons, and build the health care infrastructure needed to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS as well as detect and contain outbreaks of avian influenza. Obama will dedicate as much funding to HIV/AIDS as possible – without cutting into other critical foreign assistance programs – to ensure a comprehensive fight against this global pandemic.

Reduce Debt of Developing Nations: Developing nations are amassing tremendous amounts of foreign debt that limit their economic development and make investments in public health, education, and infrastructure extremely difficult. Debt in Sub-Saharan Africa stands at $235 billion, 44 percent of the region’s gross domestic product and an increase of 33 percent since 1990. Obama would work with other developed nations and multilateral institutions to cancel remaining onerous debt while pushing reforms to keep developing nations from slipping into fiscal ruin. Obama also would better coordinate trade and development policies to use the full range of America’s economic power to help developing nations reap the benefits of the global trading system. Obama cosponsored the Multilateral Debt Relief Act of 2005 to provide multilateral debt relief to Heavily Indebted Poor Countries.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Giuliani Asked About HIV/AIDS, Answers 9/11

If you need any further evidence that Giuliani is a one-note-wonder, check out this article in the Iowa Independent. Giuliani manages to work 9/11 into every campaign stop, and at a recent appearance in Iowa, he even answered and HIV/AIDS question with one of his stock 9/11 responses:

After about 10 minutes of prepared remarks, Giuliani began taking questions. Asked about increasing federal support for HIV medications, Giuliani discussed what he considers appropriate federal responsibility in health care. "I don't want to promise you the federal government will take over the role," he said, drawing applause and shouts of "all right." Then, in some interesting twists, he turned the HIV question into a 9/11 answer:

click here to read the whole article.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hillary Clinton Statement on National Latino AIDS Awareness Day

from the Hillary Clinton Website

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hispanics in the United States are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. Although Hispanics comprised 13 percent of the U.S. population in 2005, they accounted for 19 percent of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. Hispanic women are especially vulnerable. The CDC reports that their infection rate was more than five times higher than that of white women in 2005. Hillary Clinton issued the following statement to mark National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, observed on October 15th:

"Latinos account for the second highest rate of AIDS cases in the United States, by race or ethnicity. The epidemic has disproportionately affected Latinas and young adults. And while there has been progress in addressing the spread of the disease, the Latino community still faces tremendous challenges -including cultural and language barriers-- in the fight for the rights and needs of people living with HIV/ AIDS. During National Latino Aids Awareness Day, groups and individuals across the country gather to promote and sponsor information and prevention activities in the Hispanic community.

"I have long fought to fully fund the Ryan White CARE Act to improve access to treatment and support for those living with this tragic disease. I also wrote the Early Treatment for HIV Act, which expands access to vital treatment options for low-income individuals living with HIV. As President, I will continue taking bold steps to confront and eradicate AIDS and to support those living with the disease. The American Health Choices Plan that I have proposed also includes provisions that will eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health care, and increase diversity and cultural and linguistic competency in the health care system.

"On National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, let us commemorate the lives lost to this epidemic, and recommit to continue our fight against the spread of the disease, through dialogue, advocacy and community awareness."

To learn more about National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, visit www.nlaad.org.

To see pictures from National Latino AIDS Awareness Day events in Washington, DC: click here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

POZ Magazine Article on Presidential Candidates and HIV/AIDS

Nicole Joseph wrote the following piece for POZ Magazine

Will the 2008 U.S. presidential hopefuls commit to fighting HIV/AIDS? (And how you can encourage them to care.)

On September 18, former Senator John Edwards became the first 2008 presidential candidate to announce a plan to fight HIV/AIDS in the United States and abroad. Activists and people living with HIV applauded Edwards's plan—which would provide universal access to health care for HIV-positive Americans by 2012. It would also create a national strategy to fight AIDS that offers all people equal access to care and bases prevention efforts on science rather than political ideology. The HIV community has long awaited any sign of support from those vying to become this country's future leader. "We're hoping that all the candidates put out as detailed a plan as Edwards has," says Christine Campbell, director of national advocacy and organizing at Housing Works, a New York-based AIDS service group.

In an election year when national health care is a front-burner issue, one would think that addressing the AIDS pandemic would be a priority on every candidate's platform. But the topic has been noticeably absent from initial debates and public forums. Even though Senator Hillary Clinton said in June that “If HIV/AIDS were the leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country,” her recently released health care plan made no specific provisions for addressing the concerns of HIV-positive black women, let alone the rest of the HIV community. Rebecca Haag, executive director of AIDS Action, says, "[With] more than 1.7 million HIV infections [to date] and over half a million deaths in the domestic AIDS epidemic, our government still does not have a comprehensive plan to respond effectively." The virus continues to infect tens of thousands of new people a year and has 1.2 million in its grip in the U.S. alone.

What made Edwards speak out about AIDS? Was it intense political pressure delivered in recent weeks by watchdog groups who highlighted each presidential candidate’s commitment, or lack thereof, to the AIDS fight? Was it the call to action (nationalaidsstrategy.org) delivered to all presidential hopefuls by more than 100 organizations fighting HIV just days before Edwards released his plan? Was it the questionnaire posed to each candidate by the Campaign to End AIDS (C2EA)? Or was it Larry Frampton, a 46-year-old HIV-positive man, who traveled to one of Edwards’s campaign stops in Iowa?

Frampton waited hours to grab a chance to speak with the senator, eventually making his way to the front of the crowd and asking Edwards when he planned to post his domestic and global AIDS policy. Frampton then told Edwards that he'd been living with HIV for 18 years. Senator Edwards gave Frampton a hug and said, "We have a lot of work to do."

Frampton’s move, known as “bird-dogging” (which he describes as "getting people organized to ask the candidates the same question over and over again until they actually answer"), is one thing HIV-positive people can do to voice their concerns to the candidates. And, depending on the candidate’s response, sometimes the influence moves in both directions: Frampton says that his encounter with Edwards has him "definitely leaning" toward voting for Edwards.

“Every time I have bird-dogged and every time I have told a candidate that I'm a person living with HIV, they at least listen, and most of the time, they're more apt to listen to someone who's got a story to tell," says Frampton. "And so as a person living with HIV, you've got an opportunity to get out there and tell your story, and maybe get them to do some action on some things."

Across the country other members of the AIDS community are becoming more vocal about their expectations of the candidates. In Iowa, there is a statewide group—Iowans for AIDS Action—working together to encourage the candidates to adopt plans to fight the epidemic in the U.S. and around the world. The network of people living with HIV, religious leaders, researchers, medical and undergraduate students and AIDS service providers are living proof of the notion that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. “It doesn’t take a specially trained activist or political junkie [to make a difference],” says Michael Kink, legislative council for Housing Works. “It’s on all of us to make sure that the presidential candidates address [HIV/AIDS] clearly and in a straightforward manner.”

Whether the pressure on candidates comes from one individual, like Frampton, or from a larger, united perspective, one thing is evident: AIDS activists are not content to stand quietly by as the other candidates ignore their issues. And the broad, sweeping plans of the past aren't welcome in the 2008 election. They want specifics. Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) recently announced her recommendation for a health plan that would require every U.S. citizen to have health insurance. While this would inevitably benefit HIV-positive people, members of the AIDS community are still waiting to hear her answers to the tougher questions. For example: How much funding will be allocated to prevent and treat HIV and when can we expect to see it? "General health care plans don't necessarily address the specifics of what's needed to actually end the epidemic," says Housing Works' Campbell. "Anyone who presents a plan needs to be able to provide specific details."

A good way to educate yourself about key issues affecting the HIV community is to review the points put forth by AIDS Action’s call to action for a national strategy to fight AIDS (nationalaidsstrategy.org). Even if you don’t plan to try to bird-dog yourself, you can lend your support by signing the call to action demanding that candidates commit to a national AIDS strategy.

The Campaign to End AIDS (C2EA) AIDSVote.com site examines the candidates' stances on HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care. It is another great place to bring yourself up to speed so that you can be prepared to speak with candidates, write to politicians or just know who to vote for. AIDSvote organizers’ recent questionnaire surveyed the candidates' positions on a variety of issues. The topics ranged from "abstinence only" prevention programs to the Early Treatment for HIV Act (ETHA), a domestic initiative that would allow HIV-positive people who are not disabled to access Medicaid. So far, only Senator Edwards, Governor Bill Richardson (D-N. M.) and Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) have responded to the questionnaire. "We've got a team of C2EA activists fanning out to call the campaigns and get in some more questionnaires," says Kink. "It’s important to reach out to all the candidates in both parties."

Reaching the candidates, however, means more than just sending petitions and questionnaires. It takes a personal touch, a Larry Frampton, to move a person to action. That's why AIDSVote.com provides a detailed guide “Bird-dogging 101,” to help you make a difference. With plans to launch an updated site soon, AIDSvote.com will also offer a calendar containing information on the candidates' campaign stops so that members of the HIV/AIDS community can meet them—face to face—at the front lines.

If you’re not able to intersect candidates on the presidential campaign trail soon, you could plan a trip for next spring, a critical time in the ’08 presidential race, to attend AIDSWatch, sponsored by the National Association of People With AIDS. The annual event offers another direct avenue for lobbying those who make policy. AIDSWatch is scheduled for April 2008 and will bring hundreds of AIDS advocates from across the country to Washington, DC, to discuss AIDS funding and programming with elected officials.

Christine Campbell says that the community shouldn’t wait around for the candidates to speak out about the epidemic, and suggests that they should educate themselves about the issues and take a proactive approach to politics. "Write [to politicians], go to their events, and when there's an opportunity to specifically ask them questions, ask them to address specific issues, like whether they support lifting the ban on syringe-exchange programs; if they're willing to commit $50 billion in resources to HIV and AIDS; if they will develop a national strategy to actually end AIDS in the United States; and if they'll support their health care workers abroad," she says. "If we can educate people [in the HIV-positive community] about the specific policy points, when they go to [political] events, they can ask [politicians] directly 'will you do this'?"

And maybe some other candidates will finally respond – to your face, to your story and to your inescapable reality of living with HIV in a country whose future leaders seem reluctant to face the epidemic they will inherit.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

An HIV/AIDS Research Agenda for Black Gay Men

The statistics on HIV and black gay men are sobering. A 2005 CDC study, conducted in 5 large US cities, found that HIV prevalence among black MSM (46%) was more than twice that among white MSM (21%). (citation). It's hard to imagine that in these cities almost half of all black gay men are living with HIV.

When it comes to HIV prevention, what works for white gay men does not necessarily work for black gay men. There's still a lot we need to understand about what is fueling these high HIV rates and what we should be doing about it.

Fortunately, the National Black Gay Men's Advocacy Coalition (NBGMAC), which formed shortly after this data was released, has been working hard to improve the health and well-being of black gay men through advocacy that is focused on research, policy, education and training. NBGMAC is housed in Washington, DC at the offices of Us Helping Us.

NBGMAC will continue to their work at the October 24th meeting of the NIH Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council (OAR). The OAR meeting will focus on challenges of HIV infection in racial and ethnic communities in the United States.

Dr. Leo Wilton will present a summary of the Black Gay Research Agenda for the NBGMAC and the Black Gay Research Group. The meeting will be held at 5635 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20852 in the Terrace Level Conference Center.

It's an important step forward in advocating for the HIV research needs of black gay men, and you can be there. The meeting is open to the public. Time will be allowed for public comment at the end of the meeting. If you can attend and would like to attend, please contact Christina Brackna at (301) 402-8655 for additional information .

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ask Hillary Clinton About HIV/AIDS: Online Health Care Forum

On Thursday, October 18, 2007 at 2:00 p.m. ET, a discussion with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) will be webcast live during the next “Health Care 2008: Presidential Candidate Forum.”

John Edwards was among the first candidates to be part of these web forums. He used his appearance as an opportunity to launch a detailed and comprehensive plan to fight HIV/AIDS at home and abroad.

Let's make sure Hillary Clinton answers our questions about her plans to fight HIV/AIDS. Viewers are welcome to submit questions for the presidential candidates. Questions will be presented to the panel of journalists for consideration. Click here to submit a question about HIV/AIDS to Hillary Clinton for the live forum.

The “Health Care 2008: Presidential Candidate Forums” will allow each Presidential candidate to discuss in detail his or her vision about health reform and the uninsured with a panel of leading health journalists from “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer,” ABC News, National Public Radio, and The Wall Street Journal. The Forums are being organized by Families USA and the Federation of American Hospitals, produced by MacNeil-Lehrer Productions and hosted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in its Barbara Jordan Conference Center. The Foundation’s health news and information site, kaisernetwork.org, will provide a live webcast of each forum. Shortly after the live webcast, an archived webcast, transcript and podcast will be available.

For a list of upcoming forums and to watch archived webcasts of previous forums, visit presidentialforums.health08.org.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Jenna Bush Parts Ways with Bush Administration on HIV/AIDS

In an interview with Newsweek magazine, Jenna Bush states that after spending time in working with people living with HIV, she oppposes the Bush Administration domestic policy of abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education. Jenna says she supports a more comprehensive "ABC" approach (abstain, be faithful, use a condom).

There is no scientific evidence that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, those that censor information about contraception, are effective. In fact, Congress funded a 10-year study of these programs which shows they do not work. Over the years Congress has wasted 1.5 billion dollars of taxpayer money on these programs that have no measurable effect.

Despite the overwhelming evidence, Congress recently funded yet another extension of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.

read the newsweek article here

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A Basement Office for Bill?

Bill Clinton appeared on This Week Sunday, and said he hopes to continue his work on Global AIDS and Poverty if Hillary Clinton is elected president. Bill Clinton expects to have an office and work out of the White House, though he's not sure exactly where.

"I'll have an office wherever I'm given one," Bill Clinton told George Stephanopolous "If they want to give it to me in the basement of the White House, I'll be happy."

Since leaving the White House, Bill Clinton has focused his energy on the Clinton Foundation, which tackles issues of global concern including HIV/AIDS, poverty, and global climate change.

The Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiaitive has succesfully negotiated with numerous pharmaceutical companies to significantly lower the cost of HIV/AIDS medications for the developing world. According to the Foundation, 66 countries, representing 90% of all HIV/AIDS cases in the developing world, have access to these lower prices.

Clinton has advocated passionately for a comprehensive response to the global AIDS Epidemic, speaking at events around the world, including the 2006 International AIDS Conference

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hillary Clinton to Hold Hearing on Women & HIV

The same week that Presidential Candidate John Edwards released a widely praised HIV/AIDS Policy Agenda, Hillary Clinton announced that she will be holding a briefing on HIV and Women on the Hill. The briefing will take place Monday, October 22 from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM in the Russell Senate Office Building, room 385.

Over the last 25 years of the AIDS epidemic in the United States, women have come to represent a growing proportion of new HIV/AIDS cases, more than tripling from 8% of new cases in 1985 to 27% of new cases in 2005. Women of color have been especially hard hit and represent the majority of new HIV and AIDS cases among women, and the majority of women living with HIV/AIDS.

Clinton has been criticized by AIDS advocates because her recently released health care plan offers no specific recommendations around HIV/AIDS. Clinton supports the Early Treatment for HIV ACT (ETHA), but has frustrated advocates by remaining undecided on federal funding for science-based HIV prevention through needle exchange. Clinton also has yet to respond to the 08 Stop AIDS call for $50 million over five years to fight the global AIDS epidemic, or to the call for a National AIDS Strategy.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Presidential Candidates to Discuss Health Care

Two of Washington, DC’s most prominent health policy organizations announced today that they are organizing “Health Care 2008: Presidential Candidate Forums” – a series of Presidential Forums that will allow each Presidential candidate to discuss in detail his or her vision about health reform and the uninsured with a panel of leading health journalists from “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer,” ABC News, National Public Radio, and The Wall Street Journal.

The Forums are being organized by Families USA and the Federation of American Hospitals, produced by MacNeil-Lehrer Productions and hosted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in its Barbara Jordan Conference Center. The Foundation’s health news and information site, kaisernetwork.org, will webcast each forum live and archive them for viewing.

Seating is extremely limited and is restricted to invited guests and members of the media.

The first Forum will take place on Monday, September 24th at 11am ET and will feature former Senator John Edwards (D-NC). The remaining Forums will take place through the end of the year.

“Not since 1992 has there been such a focus in the Presidential campaign on health care,” remarked Chip Kahn, President of the Federation of American Hospitals. “These Forums will provide what I predict will be the campaign’s best conversation with the candidates on health care. They should enable Americans to thoroughly assess each candidate’s vision for our health care future.”

"Health care is the top domestic issue for America's voters, and the forums will enable the public to understand the different approaches presidential candidates bring to this growing concern," said Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA. “Rather than brief and meaningless sound bites, the forums will allow the candidates to explain how America's health care system will change if they are elected in 2008.”

"We know from our Kaiser tracking poll that health care ranks as the number one domestic issue Democrats, Republicans, and independents want to hear the candidates talk about," said Drew Altman, president and chief executive officer of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “These forums can make a meaningful contribution to understanding the views of the candidates in depth, and we are pleased to be able to bring them live to people around the country through our health news and information service, kaisernetwork.org.”

The Forums are being funded by The California Endowment of Los Angeles, California and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City, Missouri.

Each Forum will be structured identically, last exactly one hour, and feature just one candidate. After introductions, candidates will be asked an initial question, followed by two to three follow-up questions, after which each will have five minutes to present his or her views about health reform. During the remaining time, each candidate will respond to questions from an on-stage panel of four of the nation’s most distinguished journalists with expertise in health policy.

The members of the media panel are Susan Dentzer of “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” (PBS) (moderator); Julie Rovner of National Public Radio; Laurie McGinley of The Wall Street Journal; and Timothy Johnson, M.D., of ABC News. During the Forums, only the on-stage media panel will ask questions of the candidates.

Families USA and the Federation of American Hospitals have extended invitations to participate to all of the Presidential candidates from both major parties. Scheduling for the Forums is based upon the availability of each candidate. As of September 19, 2007, the following candidates are confirmed:

September 24 11 am Sen. John Edwards (D)
October 25 8:30 am Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
October 25 11:30 am Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE)
October 31 10 am Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
November 1 11 am Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT)
TBD TBD Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
TBD TBD Gov. Mike Huckabee (R)
TBD TBD Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM)
TBD TBD Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX)

Additional information is available electronically at a website developed by the Kaiser Family Foundation for the Forum series. The URL is: http://presidentialforums.health08.org.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The John Edwards Plan to Fight AIDS

Reprinted below is the John Edwards plan to fight HIV/AIDS here in the United States as well as around the world. It's a bold plan that I believe really sets him apart from the other candidates. Once again, I'm very proud to be supporting John Edwards for President. To download this document, click here


“The loss from HIV/AIDS is almost beyond understanding. This is a fight for people’s lives. Wehave a moral imperative to do much more, and do it much better.”– John Edwards

HIV is a preventable disease. But an estimated 40,000 new HIV cases were reported in the U.S. lastyear, and 4.3 million were reported around the world. HIV/AIDS is a treatable disease. Yet 17,000Americans and 3 million people globally died from it in 2005. [CDC, 2007; WHO, 2006]

John Edwards was the first presidential candidate – Democratic or Republican – to take on the biginsurance and drug companies and propose a plan for quality, affordable health care for every man,woman and child in America that offers everyone the option of a public plan. Today, John Edwardsbuilds on his plan for true universal health care with specific proposals to lead the fight againstHIV/AIDS at home and around the world. He will include a comprehensive new national strategy tofight HIV/AIDS, including:

  • Guaranteeing health insurance to every American – including HIV/AIDS patients -- the care theyneed when they need it and expanding Medicaid to cover HIV-positive individuals before theyreach later stages of disabilities and AIDS.
  • Fighting the disease in the African American and Latino communities, where the harm is nowgreatest.
  • Calling for universal access to HIV/AIDS medicine across the world, investing $50 billion overfive years to meet that goal.

HIV/AIDS is still a crisis in America, particularly in African-American and Latino communities.The number of new HIV infections in the U.S. has not fallen in 15 years. As president, Edwards willhelp end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in America. [CDC, 2005]

Guaranteeing Treatment for Everyone with True Universal Health Care by 2012: People withHIV/AIDS who don’t have health insurance or who have inadequate insurance are significantly morelikely to die from the disease. That’s the tragedy of the two health care systems in this country today– one for people who can afford the very best care and one for everyone else. True universal healthcare must be the foundation for a national HIV/AIDS strategy.

Edwards’ plan will ensure everyperson in America living with HIV/AIDS gets the care they need, when they need it. His plan willalso transform chronic care with a new patient-centered “medical home” approach where a primarycare physician will make sure patients are getting effective treatment from a coordinated team,including palliative care. [Bhattacharya, 2003]

Edwards supports the Early Treatment for HIV Act which will expand Medicaid to cover HIV-positive individuals in every state before they reach later stages of disability and AIDS. Currently, inmost states, individuals must receive an AIDS diagnosis to receive services under Medicaid even though research shows that the sooner individuals living with HIV receive treatment the better the outcomes. [Porco et al., 2004]

Creating a National HIV/AIDS Strategy: In 2001, the CDC set a national goal of reducing the annual number of new infections in half by 2005, but the actual number of infections has barelybudged. A 1998 presidential initiative set a goal of eliminating racial disparities in HIV/AIDS by2010, but disparities are as bad today as they were then. Our disappointments can be explained inpart by the failure to create a national strategy, backed by necessary funding and with clear and bold goals, specific action steps, real accountability and broad participation and buy-in from stakeholders both inside and outside of government. As president, Edwards will develop a National HIV/AIDS Strategy through an honest, comprehensive and fast-tracked process that involves stakeholders fromthe public and nonprofit sectors. The National Strategy will coordinate the various agencies withinand outside of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that affect HIV/AIDS policy.He will hold his HHS Secretary accountable for issuing an annual report on HIV/AIDS that charts progress towards our national goals, and he will appoint a strong director of the White House officeof AIDS Policy to keep these issues visible at the highest levels of government. [CDC, 1999, 2001, 2007;HHS, 1998]

Focusing on Disparities: About two-thirds of all new HIV/AIDS cases are diagnosed in African Americans and Latinos. African Americans are infected at nearly 10 times the rate, and Latinos atmore than three times the rate, of white Americans. A 2005 study of African-American men whohave sex with men in selected cities found that almost half are infected with HIV, and 67 percent donot know they have the disease. Latina women are six times more likely than white women to have HIV/AIDS. Any serious effort to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic must begin in the African-American and Latino communities, including among the incarcerated population, and address their prevention and treatment needs. We must also continue to work intensively with important overlapping groups like gay men. [CDC, 2007; KFF, 2007]

Supporting Ryan White CARE Act Programs and HOPWA: Enacting true universal health carewill ensure patients have access to care, but fully funding the Ryan White CARE Act will remainessential to ensure that culturally-competent care is available for the special needs of people livingwith HIV/AIDS. These programs include outpatient HIV early intervention services, support serviceslike transportation, case management, substance abuse and mental health treatment, nutrition, family-centered care for children, access to clinical trials and delivery to hard-to-reach populations. Maintaining delivery of outreach and treatment services to the LGBT community, for example, isdependent on these programs. Edwards will also put an end to waiting lines for HIV drugs -- forexample, more than 300 people with HIV/AIDS are on a waiting list for medication in South Carolina– and increase funds for the Housing for People with AIDS (HOPWA) programs, only federal program that provides comprehensive, community-based housing for people with HIV/AIDS.[NASTAD, 2007]

Preventing HIV/AIDS with Scientifically-Proven Strategies, Not Political Ideology: The CDChas identified the three most reliable ways to prevent HIV/AIDS infections. Yet the Bush administration focuses on only one of them – abstinence. As president, Edwards will promotes all reliable prevention strategies, including comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education to ensure young people learn all the facts about preventing HIV/AIDS and harm-reduction programs thatprovide high-risk individuals with access to clean syringes. He will lift the ban on federal funding for needle exchange initiatives. In addition, Edwards will support community and public education that encourages testing.[CDC, Undated; Bush, 2005]

Strengthening America’s Research Agenda: It used to be that more than four out of 10 requestsfor National Institutes of Health grants were approved. Now less than two out of 10 are approved,and existing grants are being cut back. One of those rejected requests might have led to abreakthrough on HIV/AIDS treatments. Edwards supports substantial increases in funding for the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, as well as measures to ensuretransparency in funding decisions, accountability for results and aligning research with outcomes.[NIH, 2007]


While the Bush administration initially increased funding for the global fight against HIV/AIDS,funding has now flat-lined. We must do more, and do it better. The fight against HIV/AIDS is afight for people’s lives, but President Bush’s way has us fighting with one hand tied behind our back.One-third of prevention funding goes to abstinence-only education that has been shown not to work.The U.S. has also refused to fund medicine approved by the World Health Organization, even thoughrequiring FDA approval means the U.S. sometimes pays up to three times more for drugs. Thismeans fewer people receive treatment, as the profits of drug companies are protected.[Goldberg, 2007;Carpenter, 2007; Love, 2007]

To restore our moral standing in the world, Edwards believes that America must be a global leader inthe fight against poverty and disease. Fighting global poverty and addressing global health crises is amoral imperative, but it is also a security issue. As president, John Edwards will fundamentally transform America’s approach to the world and bring high-level attention to the fight against global HIV/AIDS by:

Providing Universal Access to Treatment Globally: A $4 dose of medicine can help prevent amother from transmitting HIV to her newborn at childbirth. In developing countries, HIV/AIDS medications cost as little as $140 per patient a year – but, by mid-2006, fewer than one in four people who needed it had access to treatment. As part of a comprehensive plan to also fight TB and malaria around the world, Edwards has set an ambitious goal of providing universal access to preventive and treatment drugs for the three “killer diseases” by 2010, investing $50 billion over five years to meet that goal. This includes fulfilling our moral responsibility to help strengthen public health systems and health care workforces in developing nations. While we can make current spending go further bybeing more aggressive with the pharmaceutical industry, Edwards will ensure the U.S. contributes its traditional fair share toward the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which hasproven itself as an innovative, effective model to fight disease.[UNICEF, 2005; U.N. Millennium Project,2005; WHO, 2007]

Using Trade Policy to Save Lives: Edwards will enact trade policies that save lives, rather than protect the profits of big drug companies. He will ensure that U.S. bilateral trade agreements respect the rights of countries to access and use generic medicines consistent with the Doha Declaration onthe TRIPS Agreement and Public Health. We must expand poor countries’ right to safe, affordable generic drugs to treat HIV/AIDS. The increased distribution of generic drugs has been a step in theright direction. However, as millions of people develop resistance to these drugs, we must beprepared to facilitate access to more effective medications. As president, Edwards will supportefforts to increase the importation and production in developing countries of second-line and pediatric drugs. He will also re-assess the Bush policy that forces us to pay higher prices for drugsthat have been approved by the FDA, when less expensive drugs have already been approved by theWHO and their safety is reliable. WHO safety standards are relied upon by leading international organizations, including the Global Fund.

Expanding the Role of Multilateral Organizations: America’s reluctance to engage the world through multilateral organizations under President Bush has hurt our ability to combat poverty and fight HIV/AIDS. Edwards believes multilateral institutions like the Global Fund can be far moreefficient at using taxpayer dollars than bilateral agencies like the President’s Emergency Plan forAIDS Relief, with far lower overheads. As president, Edwards will support efforts to increase the role of multilateral institutions like the Global Fund in distributing funds to fight HIV/AIDS, ratherthan just bilateral aid agencies and their contractors.

Rescinding the Global Gag Rule: In 2001, President Bush signed an executive order barring U.S. family planning aid to foreign non-profits that offer abortions, except in the case of a threat to awoman’s life or incest, that provide abortion counseling or that lobby to make abortion legal. This“gag rule” stifles free speech and forces non-profits to choose between vital U.S. funds and providingessential health services. The “gag rule” has hurt efforts to ensure access to contraception methods that can prevent the spread of HIV. Edwards will overturn this order and restore support for effectivefamily planning.

Creating a Cabinet-Level Post on Global Poverty: Despite its importance to our national security and international standing, America still lacks a comprehensive strategy to fight global poverty. Ourforeign aid programs are fractured and uncoordinated, delivered by over 50 separate government offices. As a result, bureaucrats fight over overlapping jurisdictions and resources are not tied to anygovernment-wide priorities. As president, Edwards will create a new cabinet-level position that will coordinate global development policies across the federal government and be a voice for the fightagainst global HIV/AIDS.

Promoting Women’s Rights and Universal Education: Strengthening the rights of women and increasing education will help change social roles that underlie the spread of HIV in many countries. Reducing violence against women and expanding education are both proven means of preventing HIV. Edwards will aggressively support political and economic rights for women where they do notexist and support efforts to reduce violence against women and children. He will also lead the world toward a primary education for every child, endorsing the goal of achieving universal basic educationby 2015. As part of a significant increase in overall funding for poverty-focused development assistance, Edwards will lead a worldwide effort to raise $10 billion to fund this cause.[UNAIDS,2005; World Bank, 2002]

Supporting Debt Cancellation: Debt owed to Western lenders prevents many poor countries frommaking the kinds of investments in health and education that can help prevent the spread of HIV andother diseases. Edwards will take the next step on debt relief by eliminating bilateral debt owed tothe United States by the world’s poorest countries, freeing up resources for these countries to invest in health and education. He will also call on other lender nations to follow our lead.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Organizations Call on Next President to End AIDS Epidemic in U.S.

WASHINGTON, Sep. 17, 2007 -- More than 100 organizations from across the country are calling for the next President to commit to ending the AIDS epidemic in America. They have requested that every Presidential candidate commit to developing a results-oriented national AIDS strategy designed to significantly reduce HIV infection rates, ensure access to care and treatment for those who are infected and eliminate racial disparities. The groups issued a “Call to Action” that has been presented to all Presidential candidates. The Call to Action and a list of supporters is available at www.nationalaidsstrategy.org.

“More than 1.7 million HIV infections and over half a million deaths into the domestic AIDS epidemic, our government still does not have a comprehensive plan to respond effectively,” said Rebecca Haag, Executive Director of AIDS Action. “The wealthiest nation in the world is failing its own people in responding to the AIDS epidemic at home. Our country must develop what it asks of other nations it supports in combating AIDS: a comprehensive national strategy to achieve improved and more equitable results.”

The Call to Action asserts that the lack of an outcome-based response to HIV domestically has lead to unacceptable results: half of people with HIV are not in care, there is a new infection every 13 minutes, infection rates have not fallen in more than 15 years, and dramatic racial disparities are becoming even more pronounced.

“America’s response to AIDS is not serving those most in need,” said Phill Wilson, Executive Director of the Black AIDS Institute. “We cannot make significant progress on national AIDS statistics unless government and community efforts better respond to the needs of Black America, and we need a comprehensive national strategy to get there.”

“We need a plan, not a patchwork,” said Julie Davids, Executive Director of Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP). “We need to move from a response to AIDS that is often bureaucratic to one that is evidence-based and outcomes-oriented; a response that reaches everyone at risk of infection or needing care.”

The Call to Action statement states that to be successful a national AIDS strategy should:

  • Improve prevention and treatment outcomes through reliance on evidence-based programming
  • Set ambitious and credible prevention and treatment targets and require annual reporting on progress towards goals
  • Identify clear priorities for action across federal agencies and assign responsibilities and timelines for follow-through
  • Include, as a primary focus, the prevention and treatment needs of African Americans, other communities of color, gay men of all races, and other groups at elevated risk
  • Address social factors that increase vulnerability to infection
  • Promote a strengthened HIV prevention and treatment research effort

  • Involve many sectors in developing the national strategy: government, business, community, civil rights organizations, faith based groups, researchers, and people living with HIV/AIDS
Mark Cloutier, the Executive Director of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation notes the “enormous human and economic costs resulting from the lack of a focused response to HIV/AIDS domestically. Without action there will be more unnecessary deaths, billions of dollars in increased health care expenses and a significant loss of productivity in our economy. A more effective national response to HIV/AIDS is a critical part of building a stronger and more responsive health care system for all Americans.”

Pernessa Seele, founder and CEO of The Balm In Gilead, said, "The legacy of the next Executive Office resident will be determined by what she or he says and does to move communities and this country from where we are - in crisis because of HIV/AIDS - to where we want and need to be - a world leader in the advancement of research, testing, treatment and eradication of HIV/AIDS at home and abroad."

"It is unconscionable that the United States, which has all the necessary resources to end the AIDS epidemic, does not have a comprehensive plan to stop AIDS deaths, reduce infections, and get people the medical care that they need," said Robert Bank, Chief Operating Officer of Gay Men's Health Crisis, (GMHC) in New York.

“We want the American public to know that the knowledge and strategies needed to end the nation’s HIV/AIDS crisis already exist,” said David Ernesto Munar, vice president at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. “Strong national leadership can change the course of the epidemic.”

AIDS advocates and leaders all over the country are currently contacting their colleagues in civil rights, social justice, and health care organizations urging their endorsement and support.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Phil Wilson: Candidates Must Offer a Plan for Ending AIDS

When the Democrats gathered on June 28 for the first of Tavis Smiley's All-American Presidential Forums, the conversation about AIDS was a far cry from the sorry spectacle of the 2004 vice presidential debate.

In that 2004 debate, moderator Gwen Ifill asked both Vice President Dick Cheney and then-Democratic nominee John Edwards about confronting HIV among Black women. A befuddled Cheney replied that he was "not aware" of the problem; Edwards ignored the actual question and talked instead about AIDS in Russia and Africa.

But what a difference three years, lots of activism and intrepid Black journalism makes. When NPR's Michele Martin asked about AIDS among Black teens in the June 28 debate at Howard University, the leading Democratic contenders took turns offering meaningful responses.

"If HIV/AIDS were the leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country," declared Sen. Hillary Clinton, drawing rousing applause. "This is a multiple dimension problem," Clinton concluded. "But if we don't begin to take it seriously and address it the way we did back in the 90s, when it was primarily a gay man's disease, we will never get the services and the public education that we need."

Sen. Barack Obama urged African Americans to challenge stigma surrounding the virus, and notably cited homophobia as a roadblock. "We don't talk about it in the schools," Obama said. "Sometimes we don't talk about it in the churches. It has been an aspect of sometimes a homophobia, that we don't address this issue as clearly as it needs to be."

Obama added that AIDS is but one more symptom of the larger, "interconnected" problems we face. "The African American community is weakened," he declared. "It has a disease to its immune system."

Sen. Joe Biden urged African Americans to get tested and to discard unhealthy notions of Black masculinity that discourage both condom use and sexual communication.

John Edwards outlined three clear policy priorities for stopping AIDS, which included boosting spending to find a cure, guaranteeing universal treatment for people living with AIDS, and expanding Medicaid to cover HIV—a crucial initiative that advocates have tried and failed to get on Washington's agenda for a decade, and which Clinton highlights on her campaign Web site.

Black America has finally convinced presidential candidates that if they want to get our support, they have to meaningfully discuss AIDS—at least when they are talking to us. Now we've got to make them put their platforms where their mouths are. Show us the plan, Mr. and Mrs. Candidate. Show us the plan.

The AIDS story is primarily one of failed leadership, and it's time for our leaders—and our wannabe leaders—to actually lead. No candidate in either party has put forward a plan for dealing with AIDS in the United States, let alone a plan to end the epidemic in Black America. And no candidate should receive a dime from us, let alone our votes, without one.

This demand is a crucial one. An Open Society Institute report highlighted in May that America today has no overarching plan guiding our national response to an epidemic that has killed more than half a million people and left as many as 1.3 million infected today.

There are no listed goals. No benchmarks for success. No delineation of the resources needed. As my grandmother used to say, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."

Black America suffers most from this lack of focus. We account for half of all people living with HIV/AIDS and half of all new infections each year. As Martin noted in her question to the candidates, our children make up 69 percent of new cases among teens. Black women represent two-thirds of female cases. Forty-six percent of Black gay men may already be positive.

So any candidate credibly asking for African American votes must show how he or she plans to end the epidemic in Black America. We must not accept vague promises alone, but must insist that candidates lay out detailed proposals.

The candidates don't have to start from scratch in this process. Last summer, Black community leaders stepped into the void and began plotting a national mobilization to end AIDS in Black America. Twenty-five national Black institutions have since signed on to the effort, which boasts signatories that range from the NAACP to Snoop Dog, Ludacris, Don Cheadle and Beyonce.
Every presidential candidate should sign on to this historic mobilization as well.

The time for haphazard, reactionary policymaking in confronting AIDS is gone. The emergency of the epidemic's early years has long since morphed into a lasting, increasingly complex problem that demands a solution born from proactive planning. Black Americans cannot afford to accept anything less.

So here is what we need to do. Anytime we communicate with a presidential candidate-by mail, email, telephone or in person-ask this question: What is your plan to end AIDS in the Black community?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

2008 Democratic Presidential Candidates on Comprehensive Sex Education

James Wagoner, Executive Director of Advocates for Youth, offers this analysis on RH Reality Check.

When it comes to abstinence-only-until-marriage, the Republican presidential candidates are head-in-the-sand true believers, convoluted converts or, if you're Rudy Giuliani, you're silent -- very silent -- on the issue.

Most of the Democrats expressed perfunctory support for comprehensive sex education when asked directly on a candidate questionnaire (thank you, Human Rights Campaign!), but remain largely silent on the campaign trail. Nor do they exhibit any leadership on the issue in Congress.

On the other hand, the majority of the Republicans can't stop talking about the issue. The hardcore supporters of failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs include Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, and Duncan Hunter. To paraphrase Dorothy Parker, the candidates run the gamut of persuasive arguments for abstinence-only from A to B.

Sam Brownback is "denialist in chief" with an entire page of his website devoted to the awesome wonders of abstinence-only-until-marriage education. He even has the temerity to use the word "data" when talking about these programs. Gee, Sam, what "data" is this? Mathematica's multi-year evaluation of abstinence-only programs mandated by Congress that demonstrated they don't work? Or maybe the 2000 Institute of Medicine report that stated the programs should be abolished because they represent "poor fiscal and public health policy"?

Mike Huckabee grew up in a society where the "Gideons gave out Bibles ... rather than school nurses giving our condoms." He does not believe in teaching "about sex or contraception in public schools." Then again, Mike probably believes that conception begins at flirtation.

Duncan Hunter, "concerned over the breakdown of values" in America, wants "equal emphasis" on abstinence, since he believes the government is overly focused on educating children on the "dangers of STDs and contraception." I wonder what government he is talking about -- Lithuania?

Then there are the convoluted converts like Mitt Romney and John McCain. Romney, during his 2002 campaign, filled out a questionnaire stating that he supported comprehensive sex education. Since that time, along with his deep commitment to his presidential ambitions, he's discovered an equally deep commitment to abstinence-only-until-marriage education. Ralph Waldo Emerson talked about consistency being the "hobgoblin of little minds." Emerson meant it as a compliment for creative thinkers. I don't think Mitt Romney fits that bill.

John McCain infamously put his foot in his mouth when he first tried to respond to a question about whether he supported condoms as part of HIV prevention. After some garbled meanderings as reported by The New York Times, McCain became a born-again, staunch supporter of abstinence-only, saying on Christian Broadcasting Network that we must "promote abstinence as the only safe and responsible alternative. To do otherwise is to send a mixed signal to children that, on the one hand, they should not be sexually active and, but on the other, here is the way to go about it." Yep, educating young people about prevention seems a "mixed message" and actually causes them to have sex -- just like umbrellas cause rain.

Rudy Giuliani is militantly mute on sex education. Having publicly supported New York City's condom distribution program when mayor, Rudy at least has the decency to avoid "pulling a Romney."

On the Democratic front, there is not a lot to say, because the candidates are not saying much. And that, my friends, is a problem. A big problem.

All of the candidates filled out an HRC questionnaire stating they would support the REAL Act, the comprehensive sex education legislation currently in Congress.

This week, during the Planned Parenthood conference, all the Democratic candidates pledged their commitment to reversing the Bush Administration conservative approach to "abortion rights, judicial appointments, sex education and contraception." In fact, Senator Hillary Clinton promised to "devote [her] very first days in office to reversing these ideological, anti-science, anti-prevention policies."

However, neither Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, nor Joseph Biden has signed on as a co-sponsor of the REAL Act. Christopher Dodd, a co-sponsor in 2006, has not signed on this year. In fact, the only member of Congress running for president who is a cosponsor of the REAL Act is Dennis Kucinich.

It should also be noted that in 2004, Clinton was approached to be the original Senate sponsor of the Family Life Education Act. After an initial expression of interest from her office, all Advocates for Youth received was a massive runaround from her staff. Eventually, Senator Frank Lautenberg sponsored the bill.

Well, there you have it -- a fairly uninspiring Democratic presidential candidate record on the sex education issue.

Clearly, we have got a lot of work to do to get these candidates informed, committed, and vocal on an issue that is not only critical to public health but central to the rights and respect we should afford young people in our culture.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Edwards and Biden Support Global AIDS Pledge

Global AIDS Activists are making their mark on the 2008 election by attending campaign events to ask one simple question. Will the candidates support $50 billion over 5 years to stop the global spread of AIDS?

They've posed the question to Obama and Edwards here in Washington DC. Edwards also got the question in South Carolina. The Boston Globe reports the question was recently given to John McCain in New Hampshire. The question has been asked so many times, that often you just have to say '$50 billion' and the candidates will know what you're talking about.

John Edwards and Joe Biden stand out as the only presidential candidates thus far that have committed to $50 billion over 5 years to fight the global epidemic, part of the 08stopAIDS platform. It leads one to wonder, how many more times will we have to ask the question until Obama, Clinton and the other candidates hear our voices?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No Straight Talk from McCain on Medical Marijuana for AIDS Patients

John McCain's straight-talk schtick that has served him so well in the past, is turning out to be his achilles heal in 2008. This time round McCain is having a hard time giving straight answers on several issues, including Medical Marijuana for HIV/AIDS Patients. We've gotten no less than threeanswers to the same question. Reason Magazine reports:

When he was asked about medical marijuana in April, the straight-talking John McCain said, "I will let states decide the issue." Less than three months later, asked if he would end the DEA's interference with medical marijuana use in the 12 states where it's legal, he had already changed his mind, saying, "Right now my answer to you is no."

His most recent position on medical marijuana is the most troubling, however, because not only does he take the wrong position, but he also gets his facts wrong. Bay Area Reporters states that recently:

Someone asked John McCain whether he'd support the research into the use of marijuana for medical purposes, but the Republican presidential hopeful said no. "I agree with the American Medical Association. They don't think it's necessary." But in fact, the AMA recommends studies to determine the efficacy of marijuana for seriously ill patients.

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