March 16, 2016 at 5:31 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Clinton urged to appoint HIV adviser, meet with advocates

Jeanne Shaheen, Hillary Clinton, Lilly Ledbetter, New Hampshire primary, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), left, speaks alongside former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Lilly Ledbetter in Manchester, N.H., on Feb. 5, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Despite Hillary Clinton’s apology for controversial remarks last week in which she praised Nancy Reagan’s HIV/AIDS efforts, the issue doesn’t seem to be going away for the candidate as the 2016 campaign season continues.

In a joint letter dated March 15, a group of more than 70 advocates urge Clinton to appoint an HIV advisor to her campaign, meet with HIV community leadership and declare a commitment to end the AIDS epidemic nationally by 2025.

“Silence still equals death, Secretary Clinton,” the letter says. “We now have the tools to stop HIV transmission and AIDS deaths, and some of our most affected urban centers like New York City and San Francisco are making dramatic progress towards realistic goals to end their epidemics as early as 2020. Yet our national HIV response has stagnated, with no reduction in the past decade in the 50,000 avoidable new HIV infections each year. Indeed, some regions of our country are losing ground in the fight, with tragically increasing rates of new infections and premature mortality.”

Among the signers of the missive is New York City-based gay rights and HIV advocate Peter Staley, who said in a separate statement Clinton crediting the Reagans for starting a “national conversation” HIV/AIDS was “deeply hurtful, especially to those of us who advocated for our dying loved ones during that time.”

“But now we have an opportunity to challenge all of the presidential candidates to publicly announce their commitments to end the AIDS epidemic in the U.S.,” Staley added.

Specifically, the letter calls for the appointment of an HIV advisor to the Clinton campaign; a meeting between Clinton and the HIV community to discuss the creation of plan to end the national epidemic; a commitment to end the AIDS epidemic domestically by 2025, including a plan to convene an advisory panel consisting of community leaders, public health experts and government officials; and support for ending the global AIDS pandemic with increased funds for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, by at least $2 billion per year by 2020.

Among the 70 signers of the letter are the New York-based Gay Men’s Health Crisis, ACT UP New York, the National Black Justice Coalition, NMAC, Human Rights Campaign, the New York-based health agency Amida Care and the D.C.-based HIV/AIDS advocacy group Housing Works.

Charles King, CEO of the D.C.-based HIV/AIDS group Housing Works, touted the importance of working to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in a statement accompanying the letter.

“Tremendous strides have been made since the 1980s,” King said. “With today’s advancements in testing, treatment, and prevention, including PrEP, the once-a-day pill that has 99 percent effectiveness in keeping those most at risk for HIV transmission negative, we can effectively end the epidemic, even without a cure. This is a social justice issue. To end AIDS, we need to expand access to care for all people regardless of socioeconomic status or geography.”

A Housing Works spokesperson said similar letters intended for Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) and each of the Republican presidential candidates are being circulated among signers and are set for delivery by the end of the week.

The Clinton campaign didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment in response to the letter.

After Clinton made her controversial remarks on MSNBC praising Nancy Reagan for her HIV efforts during her first lady’s funeral, Clinton apologized hours later. In a subsequent op-ed for Medium, she admitted she “made a mistake” and outlined her plans for achieving an “AIDS-free generation,” which included a pledge for expanded federal funds to fight the epidemic and reform of state HIV criminalization laws.

But Clinton have never said why she made the mistake in the first place, leading many LGBT advocates to speculate she praised Nancy Reagan to curry favor with Reagan Democrats or because she confused the Reagans’ efforts on HIV with their work on stem cell research advocacy and Alzheimer’s disease. The Clinton campaign has ignored the Blade’s requests to interview the candidate to seek an explanation from her.

Clinton, during her tenure as secretary of state, called for achieving an “AIDS-free generation.” During her speech before the 2012 International AIDS Conference in D.C., Clinton announced her plans for a blueprint to stop the disease across the globe and said PEPFAR was a success.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

1 Comment
  • If Hillary really wants to help people and address income inequality in our country, she should take care to tip generously for good service. Thank you.

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