Following controversy last month after Hillary Clinton praised Nancy Reagan’s efforts on HIV/AIDS, the Democratic presidential candidate and her rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have agreed to meet separately with HIV advocates to plot a way forward to achieve an “AIDS-free generation.”
Clinton, who has apologized twice for the gaffe, but has never explained why she made it in the first place, indicated via a letter to HIV advocates from senior policy adviser Maya Harris she would take part in a meeting May 13 in New York City.
“As you know, the secretary has fought for decades to combat HIV and AIDS, and she has included it as a priority issue in her campaign,” Harris writes. “Secretary Clinton is delighted to accept your invitation and is available to meet on May 13th in New York City to discuss how we can build on this agenda. We look forward to working with you to determine a convenient time, location, and list of participants for this meeting.”
Clinton agreed to the meeting after a group of more than 70 HIV advocates wrote an open letter to her calling on her to appoint an HIV adviser, meet with HIV community leadership and declare a commitment to end the AIDS epidemic nationally by 2025.
Among the 70 signers of the letter were New York City-based gay rights and HIV advocate Peter Staley, 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.
Sanders signaled he’ll meet with HIV advocates in the first week of May via a separate letter from Sarah Scanlon, his campaign’s national director of LGBTQ outreach.
“Earlier this year, Sen. Sanders issued a comprehensive plan to create an HIV and AIDS-free generation,” Scanlon wrote. “As he says, we have the tools at hand to make this happen, but we lack the political will and the financial commitment from the currently political structure to make it a reality. It is going to take more than just promises from a political leader. Eradication of HIV/AIDS requires all of us, continuing to work together to make it happen. As the senator says, ‘When we stand together, there’s nothing that we cannot accomplish.'”
Both Clinton and Sanders have made ending HIV/AIDS, which affects an estimated 1.2 million people in the United States, a component of their presidential campaigns.
After apologizing for praising Nancy Reagan on HIV/AIDS, Clinton wrote an op-ed laying a plan to confront the disease, which includes increased HIV and AIDS research and investment; expanding access to PrEP, especially for at-risk populations; reforming state HIV criminalization laws and encouraging Republican governors to accept Medicaid expansion.
Sanders unveiled a similar plan the day after that left our PrEP, but included a goal for “virtually universal access” to low cost AIDS medications as soon as they’re approved and pushing for legislation to bar discrimination against LGBT people and people with HIV/AIDS.
Hilary McQuie, director of U.S. policy and grassroots mobilization for the HIV/AIDS group Health GAP, said she’s thrilled the candidates will meet with HIV advocates and hopes the meeting will yield greater detail on their plans to confront the disease.
“Both Clinton and Sanders have HIV/AIDS platforms on their websites, but neither specify funding levels nor commit to end AIDS as an epidemic in the United States by 2025, and in the world by 2030,” McQuie said. “None of the Republican candidates have released HIV/AIDS platforms. Activists shared their analysis with all the presidential candidates that with sufficient resources, we can end AIDS in the US by 2025, and globally by 2030.”