Thursday, August 07, 2008

Presidential Politics and AIDS

THE BLACK AIDS INSTITUTE issued this recent press release.


Presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain both responded to this weekend's news that the U.S. AIDS epidemic is 40 percent larger than previously believed with statements vowing to take action against the epidemic. The Black AIDS Institute is heartened to know that both candidates are at least paying attention to this spiraling epidemic-a far cry from previous elections.

However, these statements again make clear that Sen. McCain has a long way to go to earn the votes of those who care about HIV/AIDS in America. While Sen. Obama repeated his pledge to draft and implement America's first national HIV/AIDS strategy, Sen. McCain again offered no specific commitments or proposals for how he will deal with the epidemic. He merely vows to "work closely" with all stakeholders.

Sadly, this seeming disinterest in the epidemic is not new for Sen. McCain. His record on AIDS vacillates between total disengagement and reactionary cant.

In fall 2007, the Black AIDS Institute joined a handful of AIDS watchdogs in reviewing all candidates' records and statements on AIDS. Sen. McCain's campaign has not to date offered a detailed AIDS platform. During his decades in the Senate, he has not meaningfully participated in AIDS policy formation other than to support poorly thought out bills that stigmatize people living with HIV.

Voters considering supporting Sen. McCain must demand that he take this epidemic more seriously and articulate meaningful proposals and specific commitments for dealing with it.

Sen. Obama, on the other hand, has vowed in his AIDS platform and in subsequent statements like yesterday's to draft a national strategy for dealing with the domestic epidemic. America wisely requires countries seeking foreign aid for their AIDS programs to first have a national plan of action, yet we have never had one of our own.

Sen. Obama's pledge is a welcome commitment. And should he become president we must all hold him accountable for following through on that commitment.


Sen. Obama's statement:

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

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

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

Sen. McCain's statement:

"The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday announced that in 2006 there were 56,300 new HIV infections in United States -- significantly higher than the previous estimate of 40,000 cases. More than a million Americans live with this devastating disease. As President, I will work closely with non-profit, government, and private sector stakeholders to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS. By focusing efforts on reducing drug costs through greater market competition, promoting prevention efforts, encouraging testing, targeting communities with high infection rates, strengthening research and reducing disparities through effective public outreach, we as a nation can make great progress in fighting HIV/AIDS."

The Black AIDS Institute is a 501(c)3 non- profit organization with a mission to end the AIDS pandemic in Black communities. The Institute interprets public and private sector HIV policies, conducts trainings, offers technical assistance, disseminates information and provides advocacy.

In the Black community, HIV/AIDS is the third leading cause of death amongst children, women and men aged 25-35; and the leading cause of death amongst women aged 24-34. As HIV/AIDS continues to devastate Black populations across our country, Heroes in the Struggle, our portrait exhibit and annual gala, gives us the opportunity to showcase examples of heroism from within our communities.

For opportunities to join us and support our Fundraising or Special Events, please visit our website at or contact Jasmine Burnett at 213-353-3610 extension 116.

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