On Saturday, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that the number of Americans infected with HIV is “much higher than previously thought.” According to the study, 56,300 people became infected with HIV in 2006, “40% higher than previous figures.”
Responding to the new data, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) pointed out that under the Bush administration, the inflation-adjusted HIV prevention budget “had fallen over the past six years by 19%.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), while promising to “work closely with non-profit, government, and private sector stakeholders to continue the fight against HIV/AIDS,” would likely continue neglecting America’s domestic AIDS epidemic:
- Has not called for a national AIDS strategy: Even though the United States committed to developing a national AIDS strategy in 2001, it lacks a national plan. “In 2004, the Institute of Medicine determined that fragmentation of insurance coverage, and differing eligibility requirements and services across states, “do not allow for comprehensive and sustained access to quality HIV care,’ in the US.”
- Did not support federal funding for syringe exchange: While McCain opposes lifting the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs, “eight federally funded research reports concluded that needle and syringe programs, as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy, are an effective public health intervention that reduces HIV transmission without increasing the use of illicit drugs.”
- Did not support the Early Treatment For HIV Act (ETHA): When confronted by HIV activists, McCain claimed to “look into” the issue. The act would expand “Medicaid to cover poor people who are living with HIV but are not diagnosed with AIDS.”
As senator, McCain rarely supported initiatives to prevent new HIV infections. In 2007, McCain admitted that he has “never gotten into these issues or thought much about” the effectiveness of condoms in stopping sexually transmitted disease,” but regularly opposed expanding access to contraception.