Yesterday, CBS finally reported on where presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain stand on HIV/AIDS. Since the end of July when President Bush signed the new PEPFAR reauthorization bill (a $48 billion legislation that would reauthorize the original President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), there has been significant work done on combating and preventing HIV and AIDS abroad, including $9.6 billion spent annually by the US on the disease internationally. But what about HIV and AIDS in the US? What is being done here? Only $894.2 million is being spent on the disease in the US, while statistics show HIV infections are on the rise, especially in cities like Washington, DC, where the infection rate is 1 in 20, and among African American men, the rate is 1 in 7.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CBS reporter, interviewed two individuals about living with HIV, and also discussed both presidential candidates’ AIDS strategies. Both McCain and Obama believe that having a domestic plan for AIDS is important, but neither have issued comprehensive statements or strategies to combat HIV/AIDS in the US. But why has there been so much work on AIDS internationally and so little done for AIDS here? What is it about domestic HIV and AIDS that allows people in cities throughout the country, and especially in our nation’s capitol to be relatively ignored? AIDS in the early 80s got a lot of attention, especially in New York, but now that drugs exist to keep the disease at bay, many seem to think the fight is over, right? Wrong!

We need a national AIDS strategy that focuses on youth and high risk populations, as well as those without healthcare. We need the next president of the United States to focus on AIDS in the US. AIDS needs to be a priority for our next president because AIDS is not going away on its own. Without education, prevention and accessible treatment, HIV/AIDS is still a serious threat to the health of the American people, especially young people. But because HIV is sexually transmitted, political leaders, especially the presidential candidates have been hesitant to focus on the details of an effective solution, and understandably so; who wants to talk about sex when votes are at stake?

As the presidential election draws near, I hope we can get over our squeamishness and focus on what is most important: saving lives and preventing new infections. And that isn’t going to happen until we start pushing the candidates to do so, and making sex and sexual health a normalized topic for discussion.

To view the full CBS report, go to http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4522459

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