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Fri., Sept. 5, 2008

Epidemic overlooked

Presidential candidates must make domestic HIV/AIDS fight a priority

Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama need to make combating the HIV/AIDS crisis in the United States a priority. But it is nowhere near the top of their agendas.

The presidential candidates have spent a great deal of time on the campaign trail extensively discussing their proposed health plans. But McCain rarely speaks about HIV/AIDS, and his campaign Web site, even under the health issue, does not discuss it. The Republican Party platform recommends abstinence.

To its credit, the Obama campaign does have a comprehensive fact sheet on its Web site, explaining the candidate’s strategies on tackling the issue domestically. However, usually when Obama discusses the issue of HIV/AIDS, he does so from a global health point of view, not a domestic one.

Why is there so much silence on the domestic HIV/AIDS situation from our public officials? Would they care more if the American face of the HIV/AIDS epidemic was white and privileged?

According to a study conducted by the Black AIDS Institute and the Elton John AIDS Foundation, while blacks make up only 12 percent of the U.S. population, they account for more than half of the new HIV infections. The HIV rate among black residents in Washington, D.C., is the same as the rate in some major cities in Africa.

While it is commendable that the U.S. government has dedicated so much financial support to fighting HIV/AIDS around the world, shouldn’t it do the same for its own citizens?

We desperately need a national strategy for fighting this disease here at home. Such a policy should use strategies that are already being implemented in some of the countries the U.S. government supports, such as providing more health access and treatments methods for those living with HIV, as well as more support for agencies and grass-roots organizations working toward HIV prevention.

The policy should also address the causes of health disparities across race and class lines. If we fixed this larger problem, we would be able to get treatment to those who are disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The two presidential candidates will engage in three debates between now and Election Day. They must be asked about HIV/AIDS at home.

HIV/AIDS is not just an overseas problem.

Talia Whyte is a writer for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues that it is affiliated with Progressive magazine.

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