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.

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