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Policy & Politics
Sen. Obama Plans to Take Televised HIV Test During Visit to Kenya

August 23, 2006

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who is traveling throughout Africa for two weeks as part of a congressional delegation, on Monday said he plans to take a televised HIV test to help combat the stigma surrounding the virus, the Chicago Tribune reports (Zeleny/Goering, Chicago Tribune, 8/22). Obama's tour includes stops in South Africa, Kenya and Chad (Nullis, AP/WLS-TV, 8/21). "One of the things I will be doing in Kenya is probably getting an AIDS test myself in front of the camera," Obama said Monday outside the offices of the Treatment Action Campaign in Khayelitsha, South Africa. He added, "I think leading by example could be very helpful, and that is something I would like to do" (Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times, 8/22). He also said he wanted people to "see there's nothing stigmatizing about getting an AIDS test" (Chicago Tribune, 8/22). Obama, who was asked by CDC to take an HIV test on his trip, is expected to take the test on Saturday when he visits family members in the village where his father, a native of Kenya, once lived. Obama's representatives said thousands of Kenyan men might be encouraged to get HIV tests, which could be a "watershed moment" in efforts to tackle HIV/AIDS on the continent, according to the Sun-Times (Chicago Sun-Times 8/22). Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who met with Obama on Monday, welcomed the senator's announcement, saying the move "will encourage other people who may be less brave" (Chicago Tribune, 8/22). Obama also said men need to take responsibility for their behavior "when it comes to unsafe sex" (Chicago Sun-Times, 8/22).

Comments on South Africa's Response to HIV/AIDS
During his trip to South Africa, Obama urged the country's government to overcome its "denial" of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Tribune reports (Chicago Tribune, 8/22). In reference to Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang's promotion of African potatoes with lemon, garlic and beetroot as an effective HIV treatment, Obama said, "On the treatment side, the information being provided by the minister of health is not accurate" (Bell, Reuters, 8/21). He added, "There needs to be a sense of urgency and an almost clinical truth telling about AIDS in this country for the problem to be solved. But (it has to be) addressed in an unambiguous fashion" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 8/21).

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