Democratic Presidential Candidates Discuss HIV/AIDS, Katrina Recovery as Part of Debate
Eight Democratic presidential candidates on Thursday participated in a debate at Howard University that focused on "issues considered key to black voters," such as equality and HIV/AIDS, the Los Angeles Times reports. PBS televised the debate, and it was moderated by PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley (Finnegan/Nicholas, Los Angeles Times, 6/29).
During the debate, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) said that he would eliminate tax cuts proposed by President Bush and approved by Congress to "pay for universal health care and other initiatives" (Welch/Bello, USA Today, 6/29). Obama said, "The problems of poverty, lack of health care, these are all -- lack of education opportunity, are all interconnected." He added, "And so it is important for us to look at the whole body here and make absolutely certain that we are providing the kinds of economic development opportunities and jobs that will create healthy communities, that we've got universal health care that ensures that people can get regular treatments."
Former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) said, "We have two health care systems in America. And we know that race plays an enormous role in the problems that African-Americans face and the problems that African-Americans face with health care every single day." Edwards added, "There are huge health care disparities, which is why we need universal health care in this country."
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) said that he supports a "not-for-profit health care" system in which "everyone's covered" (Debate transcript, CQ Transcriptions, 6/28).
The candidates also criticized the Bush administration's efforts to rebuild Gulf Coast areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) said the Bush administration "has basically neglected with almost criminal indifference the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast, in particular New Orleans and the parishes."
Clinton criticized the White House for its response to the increasing rate of HIV cases among black Americans. Clinton said that if HIV/AIDS were the "leading cause of death of white women between the ages of 25 and 34, there would be an outraged outcry in this country." Clinton added that if the issue is not addressed, the U.S. will "never get the services and the public education that [it] need[s]" (Nagourney/Zeleny, New York Times, 6/28).
According to the Washington Post, Edwards proposed a three-part plan to curb HIV/AIDS in the U.S. The plan includes searching for a cure, funding treatment for all HIV-positive people and guaranteeing that HIV/AIDS treatments are covered by Medicaid. Edwards and Obama said that a universal health care system is needed to ensure that all people receive access to treatment regardless of economic circumstances (Balz/Kornblut, Washington Post, 6/29). Obama attributed the high rate of HIV cases among blacks to stigma surrounding the virus in black communities, the Baltimore Sun reports. "We don't talk about this," Obama said, adding, "We don't talk about it in the schools. Sometimes we don't talk about it in the churches. It has been an aspect of sometimes our homophobia that we don't address these issues as clearly as it needs to be" (West, Baltimore Sun, 6/29).
Sen. Joseph Biden (Del.) encouraged people to be tested for HIV. He added that he has worked with the black community to try to "get black men to understand it is not unmanly to wear a condom" and to get black women to "understand they can say no" (Finnegan/Nicholas, Los Angeles Times, 6/29). Obama also said that he and his wife have received HIV tests together (Washington Post, 6/29). According to the Los Angeles Times, most of the candidates agreed that the U.S. should increase funding for HIV/AIDS research and treatment. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said that White House spending on global HIV/AIDS programs is "relatively impressive" (Los Angeles Times, 6/29).
Video of the debate is online.
Segments of the debate in which candidates discussed HIV/AIDS and Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts are available online at kaisernetwork.org.
Opinion Piece Addresses Minority Health Care
"Pick any major U.S. state, city and county and the health disparities from AIDS to asthma among people of color ages eight to 80 are likely to be painfully familiar," Smiley writes in a Chicago Sun-Times editorial. Smiley on Thursday moderated the Democratic presidential debate.
He states that "poverty and lack of health care and insurance [are] among the headlining factors" to such disparities. According to Smiley, challenges facing minority communities and people with low incomes include "lack of health facilities nearby, the cost of care and prescriptions, and the lack of neighborhood-based resources and social support to engage in healthy behaviors."
Smiley writes that costly health premiums and inadequate health benefits also make health services less attainable. Thursday's debate and the Republican debate to be held in September provide "an unprecedented opportunity for diverse perspectives to be a part of the national dialogue" on health care issues, Smiley concludes (Smiley, Chicago Sun-Times, 6/28).