Young Voters Speak Out: Each day, RR.com will spotlight politically minded youth writers from throughout the U.S. speaking their minds on Election 2012. First-time voters, student journalists and new graduates will debate the Obama vs. Romney race to the White House. Young Democrats, Republicans and ‘Undecided’ Americans are eager to play politics and choose the next Commander & Chief.
Read A.W. Strouse's thoughts from a moderate perspective:
It's become clear that the presidential candidates simply don't care about HIV/AIDS. GOP candidate Mitt Romney has failed to address the epidemic except with a canned glib, sentimental statement entirely divorced from a concrete plan. And President Obama, after cutting funding for the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, couldn't even be bothered to speak at the 19th annual International AIDS Conference held in Washington, D.C. the week of July 22nd. Plenty of other dignitaries were in attendance, but evidently the President feels that the topic isn't a fashionable campaign issue this season.
In response, thousands of activists are acting up and making sure that HIV gets in the headlines. Protestors interrupted D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray's address to the Conference and disrupted a congressional panel moderated by former Senator Bill Frist. Marching on the White House and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative last Tuesday, protestors brought attention to a new trade agreement proposed by Obama that could cut off access to life-saving medication for AIDS patients in developing countries.
Meanwhile, advocacy groups such as ACT UP have called for a so-called Robin Hood tax that would fund research and treatment for HIV/AIDS globally. Supporters advocate a ½ to 1 percent tax on all Wall Street transactions. Of course, Wall Streeters are not in favor of the tax, but it would have no impact on average Americans and makes perfect economic sense. And, as a point of fact, nearly all AIDS patients across the planet are poor people whose treatment hinges on taxpayer funding. Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, has recently endorsed taxing the richest Americans in order to pay for a sane HIV/AIDS policy: "This is a rich world in which rich people don't pay taxes," Sachs said, pointing out that the $40 billion required to fight the disease is equal to about 20 days of Pentagon spending.
Marchers also are protesting against HIV criminalization. In many states, people who are HIV+ can face jail time if they do not disclose their status to their sexual partners. These laws lead to frivolous cases of spurned lovers suing their ex's, and criminalization stigmatizes people who are positive. As many activists argue, such stigma only contributes to the spread of the virus. And, as the 2010 Vienna Declaration made clear, criminalizing drugs is also fueling the epidemic. By decriminalizing drugs and sex work, legalizing needle-exchange programs, and by de-stigmatizing the virus, we can help end HIV/AIDS.
But presidential leadership is necessary to negotiate agreements with pharmaceutical companies to lower costs and develop new medicines. It's time for Romney and Obama to show real leadership, stand up to Wall Street, and raise the funds necessary to cure the disease.