DENVER, Aug. 29 Speaking at the DemocraticNational Convention Wednesday night, Former President Bill Clinton called fora reinvigorated response to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic in the UnitedStates. In praising Presidential nominee Barack Obama, Clinton said, "He willcontinue and enhance our nation's commendable global leadership in an area inwhich I am deeply involved: the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria,including -- and this is very important -- a renewal of the battle against HIVand AIDS here at home."
Clinton's comments came three weeks after the Centers for Disease Controland Prevention (CDC) released new estimates indicating that the HIV infectionrate in the United States is 40% higher than previously thought. Every year,over 56,000 Americans become infected with HIV, a rate that has not fallen ineight years and is higher than it was for most of the 1990s, according to CDC.
Several other speakers at related Convention events called for thedevelopment of a National AIDS Strategy for the United States, including Rep.Barbara Lee, Rep. Maxine Waters, Michelle Obama, and actor and activist DannyGlover. The Democratic Party Platform includes a call for a National AIDSStrategy and Senator Obama during the primary season pledged to develop aNational AIDS Strategy if elected.
However, AIDS advocates were disappointed that although Senator Obamademonstrated leadership during the primary season he did not address the issuein his speech. Nor was there visibility of those living with HIV; for thefirst time since 1992 there was not an HIV+ speaker at the DemocraticConvention.
"It was disappointing that on the occasion of this historic nomination,that one of the greatest health threats facing America today was not morefront and center during this year's Convention," said Phill Wilson, Founderand CEO of the Black AIDS Institute. "This is my fourth Democratic Conventionand it has never been so difficult to put HIV/AIDS on the agenda. At a timewhen the AIDS epidemic is worse in our nation's capital than in many parts ofSub Saharan Africa, how can AIDS not be a featured as a priority by ourDemocratic Presidential nominee?"
David Munar, a HIV+ delegate from Illinois and the President of theNational Association of People Living with HIV (NAPWA), was encouraged by thefocus on the important themes of health care reform, reducing unwantedpregnancies, and tackling the devastation of disease across the globe but was"disappointed that there was not a specific call to action by the Presidentialor Vice-Presidential nominees to end the AIDS epidemic in America." "Obamahas been a leader on HIV/AIDS here in Illinois, and I hope that he willcontinue to personally address the issue during this presidential campaign.His direct involvement and leadership remains critical."
Other surrogates did address HIV/AIDS during related Convention events.Speaking on Monday at a luncheon to recognize the leadership of 26 Members ofCongress on HIV/AIDS, Danny Glover said a National AIDS Strategy is needed inthe US. "First we thought AIDS was someone else's problem," Glover said."Lately we've recognized it is a problem in other countries. But while we'vebeen tackling AIDS overseas, we've forgotten about the home front.
"It's time we demand better results from our domestic response to AIDS,"Glover continued. "That is why Senator Obama has called for a National AIDSStrategy. We have to have a plan of action to tackle AIDS in America.
"A National AIDS Strategy has to focus us on achieving concrete outcomes,including bringing the HIV infection rate down and increasing access to care,"Glover said. "A Strategy has to better coordinate the work of federalagencies and use resources most effectively. And it has got to move us awayfrom basing health policy on conservative social agendas, and instead designprograms based on wha