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Where the Candidates Stand: The Republicans

December 2007

The RepublicansWe sent surveys to all eight Republican candidates in the race as of October 2007. All of the surveys were distributed to individuals identified by the campaigns themselves. However, no Republican candidate responded to the survey, either in written form or via telephone interviews. As a result, very little is known about how any of the Republican candidates will respond to the Black AIDS epidemic.

Rudy GuilianiMike HuckabeeRep. Duncan Hunter
Rudy GuilianiMike HuckabeeRep. Duncan Hunter
Sen. John McCainRep. Ron PaulMitt Romney
Sen. John McCainRep. Ron PaulMitt Romney

Below, we review the existing public record of the four top-polling candidates at press time -- Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Sen. John McCain, and Mitt Romney -- drawing heavily from the GMHC survey. As with the Democratic field, whoever ultimately wins the Republican nomination must be asked to explain his positions on these crucial issues.

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On Creating a National Strategy

Mike Huckabee is the only Republican candidate to have committed to developing a national AIDS strategy. Huckabee made his pledge in a December 8 statement, the bulk of which clarified a remark he made while running for Senate in 1992, in which he endorsed quarantining people living with AIDS. In his December 8, 2007, statement, Huckabee declared, "My administration will be the first to have an overarching strategy for dealing with HIV and AIDS here in the United States, with a partnership between the public and private sectors that will provide necessary financing and a realistic path toward our goals. We must prevent new infections and provide more accessible care. We must do everything possible to transform the promise of a vaccine and a cure into reality."

No other Republican candidate has answered the question of whether he will develop a national strategy. In addition to not responding to the Black AIDS Institute's survey, no candidate responded to the AIDSvote.org survey either. Thus, it is also unknown whether any of the candidates would actively oppose the creation of a national strategy or simply have failed to consider AIDS a priority.


On Reducing Black Infections

No Republican candidate has answered whether or how he would target resources to stop the epidemic's disproportionate impact on African Americans.

None of the Republican candidates support lifting the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange; several of them actively oppose it. Similarly, none of the candidates have stated support for comprehensive sex education in schools; only Romney has discussed how he would respond to HIV's spread inside prisons.

  • Giuliani has perhaps the most hopeful record on syringe exchange among the Republican candidates. As mayor of New York City, from 1994 to 2001, he presided over one of the nation's most robust -- and successful -- syringe exchange programs. The system was first established prior to his taking office, but expanded significantly during his administration. According to the GMHC review, Giuliani told the New York Times in 1997 that syringe exchange "is something I'm skeptical about, but it doesn't mean I'm not willing to look at the argument on the other side." He has not answered whether he would adopt the same approach as president.

    Rep. Tom TancredoFred Thompson
    Rep. Tom TancredoFred Thompson

  • Huckabee, as a Senate candidate in 1992, told The Associated Press that in order for the federal government to effectively stop the epidemic's growth "we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague." He explained that, "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." After AIDS activists and news reports drew attention to the statement in December 2007, Huckabee released a December 8 statement clarifying his remark. Huckabee stressed there was "too much confusion" about HIV/AIDS in the early 1990s and argued that his point then, and now, is that we must "deal with the virus using the same public health protocols that medical science and public health professionals would use with any infectious disease."

    He went on to state, "At the time, there was widespread concern over modes of transmission and the possibility of epidemic. In the absence of conclusive data, my focus was on efforts to limit the exposure of the virus, following traditional medical practices developed from our public health experience and medical science in dealing with tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. We now know that the virus that causes AIDS is spread differently, with a lower level of contact than with TB. 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. My concern was safety first, political correctness last." At the time, science had already firmly established that HIV was not spread through casual contact. Nevertheless, in a recent broadcast interview about the 1992 statement, Huckabee insisted, "I don't run from it, I don't recant it." He said he would, however, articulate the position differently today.

  • Romney, as governor of Massachusetts in 2006, vetoed a bill passed with strong legislative support that legalized over-the-counter sale of syringes. According to the GMHC report, when the legislature overrode his veto, Romney remarked, "Legalizing needles is like giving matches to an arsonist. It undermines our efforts to enforce the state's drug laws, and it increases the likelihood that dirty and contaminated needles will end up on our beaches, parks, and playgrounds." There is no evidence of any of these claims. In 1994, according to the GMHC report, Romney remarked that he would support allowing condoms in prisons if medical staff called for it. He has not commented on specific, contemporary efforts to do so.


On Encouraging Blacks to Get Tested

None of the leading Republican candidates have stated if or how they would target resources to encourage more African Americans to learn their HIV status, or how they would support HIV testing of any sort.


On Ensuring Access to Appropriate Care

None of the leading Republican candidates have discussed how they would ensure access to treatment and care for people living with HIV/AIDS.

  • McCain is the only leading candidate with an identifiable record on federal treatment policy. As a senator, he has not supported the Early Treatment with HIV Act, which would expand Medicaid to cover poor people who are living with HIV but are not diagnosed with AIDS. He was an original cosponsor of the Ryan White CARE Act, but has not taken a meaningful role in AIDS treatment and care policymaking.
  • Giuliani, while mayor of New York City, maintained an intensely combative relationship with the city's AIDS service organizations and advocacy groups on a host of policy issues. The situation deteriorated to the point that a federal judge placed the city's AIDS services department under federal control for three years, according to an American Prospect magazine review of Giuliani's AIDS record. Housing Works, a New York AIDS housing and advocacy group, charged that Giuliani punitively cancelled its service-providing contracts due to its criticism of his administration; the organization sued the city, and Giuliani fought the case throughout his administration. In 2005, Mayor Michael Bloomberg settled the suit for $4.8 million.


On Eradicating Stigma

All of the leading Republican candidates have troubling records when it comes to dealing with stigma associated with HIV. Not only have none of them addressed the broader issue of HIV-related stigma, they have all actively played upon stigmas and biases that help drive HIV infection and/or have supported polices that discriminate against people living with HIV.

  • Romney declared in 1994 that he supports lifting the ban on people living with HIV entering the country, if the individuals prove they can pay for their own medical care, according to the GMHC review. But Romney has notably moved to the right on a number of his previous positions, and he has not answered how he would handle the policy during the course of this campaign. And while Romney was at one time a vocal supporter of gay civil rights, he has since become an equally vocal opponent. He worked tirelessly as governor of Massachusetts to block legal recognition of same-sex marriages and has prominently featured that effort in his presidential campaign.
  • Giuliani has similarly altered his position on gay civil rights in the course of running for president. As mayor of New York City, he supported legislation creating domestic partner benefits; he has since, however, stated opposition to both same-sex marriage and civil unions, which give gay couples legal recognition without conferring on them the status of marriage.
  • McCain has consistently backed legislation that stigmatizes or discriminates against people living with HIV, according to the GMHC review. In addition to backing the ban on people living with HIV entering the country, he has voted to involuntarily test patients for HIV before surgery and to imprison HIV-positive doctors or health care workers who participate in surgery. Standard safety procedures for all surgeries remove risk of HIV transmission from doctor to patient.



  
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This article was provided by Black AIDS Institute. It is a part of the publication We Demand Accountability. Visit Black AIDS Institute's website to find out more about their activities and publications.
 

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