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Domestic AIDS Epidemic Ignored at Republican National Convention

Advocates call on John McCain to commit to develop a National AIDS Strategy for the U.S.

MINNEAPOLIS and ST. PAUL, Minn., Sep. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Republican National Convention concluded last night with no mention of the domestic AIDS epidemic in the United States and only passing reference to the epidemic overseas. Neither Presidential nominee Sen. John McCain nor Vice Presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin mentioned AIDS in their remarks to Convention delegates.

The Republican Convention was held one month after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new estimates indicating that the HIV infection rate in the United States is 40% higher than previously thought. Every year, more than 56,000 Americans become infected with HIV, a rate that has not fallen in eight years and is higher than it was for most of the 1990s, according to CDC.

"The complete failure of the Republican leadership to even acknowledge AIDS is deeply troubling," said Phill Wilson, Founder and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute. "At a time when the AIDS epidemic is worse in our nation's capital than in many parts of Sub Saharan Africa, how can AIDS not be a featured as a priority by the Republican Presidential nominee?"

First Lady Laura Bush did make reference to AIDS in her address on Tuesday night when she noted the number of Africans receiving AIDS treatment through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a program spearheaded by President George Bush. No speakers addressed the AIDS epidemic in the United States and the Republican platform offered no plan to address the issue.

"John McCain must commit to developing a National AIDS Strategy for the U.S. designed to reduce the HIV infection rate and increase access to AIDS treatment," said David Munar, President of the National Association of People Living with HIV (NAPWA). "AIDS remains a serious threat in this country and every new infection adds significant financial burden to an already over-burdened health care system. If we want to save health care costs, we must use effective prevention tools and ensure early detection by making HIV testing a routine health care procedure," he added.

"Striving for progress against HIV/AIDS in the U.S. is a non-partisan issue all Americans can and should get behind," said Rebecca Haag, Executive Director, AIDS Action Council. "The next President has an important opportunity to build on the lessons of our international response to AIDS and achieve better outcomes in the epidemic at home. AIDS remains one of the most serious public health challenges facing our nation. As we begin to debate broader healthcare reform, including stronger prevention efforts, we should look at how programs like PEPFAR can provide a model for how to effectively address HIV/AIDS in our own country. With better planning, implementation and accountability, the U.S. can, and indeed must, make better progress," said Haag.

The absence of discussion about the domestic AIDS epidemic at the Convention was in contrast to the Democratic Convention held the previous week. At that Convention, former President Bill Clinton called for "a renewal of the battle against HIV and AIDS here at home." Several Members of Congress voiced support for development of a National AIDS Strategy. When they spoke to Democratic delegates on the first day of the Convention, both Michelle Obama and actor and activist Danny Glover said that a National AIDS Strategy is needed. The Democratic Party Platform includes a call for a National AIDS Strategy, and Senator Obama has pledged to develop a National AIDS Strategy if elected.

More than 1,000 individuals and over 300 organizations, including public health departments, faith based communities, civil rights groups, health care centers and AIDS organizations throughout the country have endorsed a Call to Action for a National AIDS Strategy.

More information about the National AIDS Strategy is available at

Contact: Rebecca Haag, 202.595.4166

Chris Collins, 845.701.0158

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