Virginia’s Candidate For Lieutenant Governor Has Undermined His Own Party On AIDS Policy

E.W. Jackson, the newly-announced, far-right candidate for Virginia’s lieutenant governor, has a long and sordid history of opposing AIDS prevention and research, as revealed on Tuesday by Mother Jones. Jackson, who is self-avowedly anti-gay, has led opposition to needle exchanges, programs that help drug users avoid infection by trading in used needles for clean ones. On several occasions, he also blocked safe sex education and resources, both for adults and students:

In 1987, as federal and local officials were first beginning to take preventative efforts, Jackson organized a group of 30 clergymen in opposition to a proposal from Boston’s superintendent of schools to place four public health clinics in city schools. He claimed any program that even mentioned condoms was promoting promiscuity. That same year, he held a candlelight vigil outside a local ABC affiliate, WCVB, demanding that the station pull sex education public service advertisements that endorsed the use of condoms. As the Associated Press reported at the time, “Jackson said the commercial showed a 10- to 12-year-old girl saying, ‘I just learned to have safe sex.'” (The girl was actually either 16 or 17, according to the ad’s creator.)

Jackson’s positions are incredibly dangerous, and proven to cause the proliferation of AIDS in the United States. The stigma of being sexually active motivates people to defer treatment and testing of the disease, while the lack of appropriate sex education leads to a dearth of basic knowledge on how to prevent infection. As a map of the concentration of HIV infections shows, the disease is most common where kids learn the least about sexual health.

But his approach is also wildly out of step with the mainstream of his party. Even old school Reagan Republicans, like the late Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, supported sex education as a means of protecting future generations from the AIDS epidemic. Former President George W. Bush, too, pushed for and passed bipartisan efforts to prevent the spread of the virus globally. His father, similarly, increased spending on AIDS research. Even radically anti-gay former Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) apologized late in his career for opposing AIDS prevention efforts, saying he was “ashamed that I’ve done so little.”