U.S Presidential Candidates to Face Scrutiny During Int'l AIDS Conference As CDC Releases Figures Showing Higher HIV Rates
July 28, 2008
As Bush stresses eagerness to sign global AIDS bill, people with HIV and allies decry Bush-era domestic failures and pernicious role of "Dr. No," Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)
Advocates ask McCain, Obama to speak out for national AIDS strategy, funding increases for U.S. AIDS fight, and an end to ineffective, biased policies like "abstinence-only" during next week's AIDS conference and at Saddleback Church forum on 8/16
A Look at the Candidates on HIV/AIDS:
What do the statements, candidate poll responses and congressional actions indicate about how McCain or Obama would view his mandate as leader of the nation that is both the largest investor in HIV/AIDS global programs and home to one of the world's most pervasive AIDS epidemics in our gay, Black and Latino/a communities? Among other AIDS promises, Obama has pledged to institute a National AIDS Strategy to mirror what we require from PEPFAR recipients, but has remained largely mute on domestic AIDS in the news, on the stump and the web, and refers to Sen. Coburn as an example of his cross-aisle collaborators. McCain has not released an HIV/AIDS platform and has publicly deferred to Sen. Coburn on AIDS.
New Numbers on HIV in the U.S. Are Neither Pretty nor Petty: Understanding the Implications of the Incidence Estimate: For years, there has been data showing the rise of HIV infection rates in key communities, most dramatically in Black gay men. On Aug. 3 at the International AIDS Conference, CDC is releasing data verifying that the long-held estimate of 40,000 new infections a year is too low, according to a sophisticated sampling procedure with thousands of HIV test results from more than 20 states. How much can we glean from one year of the new estimate? What are the other data to be discussed in Mexico City that will shed light on HIV/AIDS incidence in the United States? And how could structural interventions confront incidence by tackling underlying causes of racial disparities and high rates in gay men, such as poverty, mass imprisonment, and overlapping epidemics of violence and marginalization in gay men's lives?
Who Won't Be at the International AIDS Conference -- and Why it Matters: Next week's conference will lack high-ranking U.S. politicians as well as hundreds of NIH, CDC and HHS scientists and policy-makers whose work is integral to the struggle against HIV/AIDS. What are the implications of this Dr. No intellectual ban, how does it reflect larger Bush-era restrictions on objectivity and science, and what should the next President do about it?
Why the Candidates Must Speak Against Sen. Coburn's Bush-Era Crusade Against Effective HIV/AIDS Policies: Sen. Coburn's recent actions to restrict PEPFAR will lead to more infections and less people on treatment, and his intellectual ban on the International AIDS Conference hampers key dialogue to move forward collaboration against the epidemic. What are the concerns of AIDS advocates who see presidential candidates referring to him as an expert on HIV/AIDS or as an example of cross-the-aisle congressional deal-making?
On August 3 at the International AIDS Conference (IAC) in Mexico City, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will finally release long-awaited revised incidence numbers, revealing that the number of new cases in 2006 was not 40,000, but as high as 55,000. This troubling news strengthens the resolve of AIDS activists who are demanding that Sens. McCain and Obama speak out against regressive HIV prevention policies.
The IAC, the largest conference on HIV/AIDS in the world, will happen in the absence of key CDC researchers, NIH scientists and government public health officials, due to a government staff travel ban instigated by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who replaced the late Jesse Helms as a leading force of anti-gay and wrongheaded HIV/AIDS policies in the Senate, and who has blocked progress on Sen. McCain has referred to Coburn as the person whose advice he seeks on HIV/AIDS issues, and Sen. Obama has cited his work with Coburn as an example of cross-party collaboration.
Sen. Coburn, profiled today in both the New York Times and Washington Post as "Dr. No," for his use of procedural measures to block legislation, also seeks to put warning labels on condoms, is a leading force in the gag rule blocking international U.S.-funded programs from effective prevention efforts with sex workers, and is responsible for ensuring that the recently reauthorized global AIDS bill (PEPFAR) includes ideological barriers to effective HIV prevention and funding limitations that will reduce the number of people with HIV accessing lifesaving treatment.
Shortly after the conference, the candidates will both present at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in their first post-primary co-appearance. Rev. Warren and his wife Kay have encouraged churches to get involved with HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, but have embraced anti-gay clergy (for example, the steering committee chair of their massive Rwandan project is Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini, the Anglican leader who has called on churches in the East African region to fight against homosexuality for the "good of the society," and have been largely disengaged from the U.S epidemic, in which most cases are in gay men, with the highest rates in Black gay men.
"Those at the front line of HIV/AIDS in the United States include people of faith of all sexual orientations who oppose the inaccurate abstinence-only programs that have persisted even in a Democratic-led Congress, and who understand the need for honest, accurate HIV prevention for all people, including gay men, sex workers and youth," said Julie Davids, Executive Director of the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP).
"Now that we are confirming what we've long suspected -- HIV rates in the U.S. are higher than previous government statistics indicated -- we look to the presidential candidates to use the International AIDS Conference and the Saddleback Church platform to repudiate the policies of President Bush and Senator Coburn, and to show the political leadership we need for a strong national AIDS strategy in which science and justice will trump ideology and bias."
This article was provided by Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project.