One week from today, I will be voting in my first presidential election in the state of Virginia (after voting absentee in CA for enough years). Seeing as that this election seems to have lasted about two years, I really am looking forward to finally pulling the lever for Obama/Biden.
Long time blog peeps know that I'm an Obama supporter and I have been for a while. I've been volunteering for the campaign and will do so again tonight (Tuesday is Latinos for Obama night). When I volunteer, I encounter a number of undecided voters. At this point, I sometimes wonder how people can still be undecided. And then I speak to the undecideds and it's clear that they are often one issue voters. And they feel that the candidates haven't really addressed their issue during the campaign. For many Latino voters, that issue is immigration.
Granted, I have many issues (pun intended). But if I had to pick one it would be HIV/AIDS. Considering I manage an HIV prevention program, considering one in 20 people in DC have HIV, a candidate's stance on HIV/AIDS issues is incredibly important to me. And speaking of stances, here is where the candidates are at:
- Has only just recently said he was committed to a National AIDS Strategy (this came out in a Washington Blade interview, so I have to wonder if he was simply pandering to the gays) despite never having supported it in the past.
- Supports abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education, which has been proven time and time again to be ineffective in preventing teen pregnancy and STD/HIV transmission and whose curricula promotes homophobia and lies about the effectiveness of condoms.
- Voted against the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Amendment to the Child Custody Protection Act of 2006 which would've provided comprehensive sex education.
- Has not indicated whether he supports syringe exchange as a means to reduce HIV transmission among injecting drug users.
- Did not support the Microbicide Development Act which would provide federal funding to the development of a microbicide (for more info on microbicides, click here).
- In 1991, he voted for an amendment to imprison HIV-positive health care workers who performed surgery
- In 1991, he voted for an amendment to involuntarily test patients for HIV (this amendment was courtesy of Jesse Helms and you all know how I feel about that bastard, may he rot in hell)
- In 1993, he voted to prevent people living with HIV to immigrate to the US
- Supported PEPFAR II
- Co-sponsored the Ryan White CARE Act in 1990, but not in 2000.
- Did not support the Early Treatment for HIV Act
- Co-sponsored the 2008 PEPFAR reauthorization
- Could not confirm nor deny whether condom use is effective in prevention HIV transmission
- Perhaps the most telling of his stance on HIV/AIDS issue, McCain's advisor on this is Sen. Tom Coburn who is very anti gay rights, is reponsible for abstinence-only sex education and is responsible for the prostitution restrictions in PEPFAR.
On the other hand, there's Obama who:
- Has committed to developing a National AIDS Strategy on several occasions and has already outlined some details of the strategy
- Co-sponsored the Prevention First Act which provides funding for comprehensive sexuality education
- Opposes federal funding for abstinence-only sex ed programs
- Would repeal the ban on federal funds for syringe exchange
- Is the original author of the Microbicide Development Act
- Supports the JUSTICE Act which would provide access to condoms in prisons
- Supported the repeal of the HIV travel and immigration ban (which was repealed recently)
- Co-sponsor of the Early Treatment for HIV Act
- Supports increased funding for HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS)
- Co-sponsored the 2008 PEPFAR reauthorization
- Supported lifting the requirement that 1/3 of Global HIV Prevention funds be dedicated to abstinence-only programs
- Perhaps the most telling of Obama's position on HIV/AIDS issues is that, when he traveled to Kenya in 2007, he and his wife were publicly tested for HIV (in a country ravaged by AIDS and the stigma that comes with it, this act was groundbreaking).
Obama feels that "AIDS is not an issue of either science or values--it is both. Yes, there must be more money spent on this disease. But there must also be a change in hearts and minds, in cultures and attitudes. Neither philanthropist nor scientist, neither government nor church, can solve this problem on their own--AIDS must be an all-hands-on-deck effort." (check out this post to see where this quote came from)
Having personally heard Obama speak on HIV/AIDS and women, I had never, ever heard a politician speak so eloquently and decisively about an issue that I am so passionate about. Do I think that voting for Obama will solve the domestic AIDS crisis? No. Will he make my job easier? Possibly. Domestically, AIDS has been virtually ignored while HIV infection rates are increasing. The creation of a National AIDS strategy is a start to solving our problems at home. Obama's support of a strategy (and the fact that he's already come up with some things he wants to do) is certainly a step in the right direction.
And that's one change I can believe in.
Sources: AIDSvote.org and Gay Men's Health Crisis