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Huckabee challenged on AIDS comments

DES MOINES, Iowa – Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s 15-year-old comments that AIDS patients should have been isolated have so alarmed the mother of Ryan White, an Indiana teenager whose life-ending battle with AIDS in the 1980s engrossed the nation, that she has asked for a meeting.

“I would be very willing to meet with them,” the former Arkansas governor responded Tuesday while campaigning in western Iowa. “I would tell them we’ve come a long way in research, in treatment.”

The GOP front-runner in Iowa’s Jan. 3 caucuses stood by his 1992 comments in a broadcast interview Sunday, infuriating Jeanne White-Ginder, the late teen’s mother and a board member of the AIDS Institute.

“It’s very important to me that we don’t live in the darkness” when people thought AIDS was transmitted through casual contact, such as by “kissing, tears, sweat and saliva,” White-Ginder said Monday from her home in Leesburg, Fla.

White was 13 when he was diagnosed with AIDS in December 1984, having contracted the disease from the blood-clotting agent used to treat his hemophilia. He was barred from school the following year out of fear the disease was spread casually. He died in 1990 at age 18.

On Tuesday, the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, and the AIDS Institute sent a letter to Huckabee asking him to meet with White-Ginder – who declined to say what political party she belongs to – and calling his comments “completely beyond comprehension.”