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Race for the White House: HIV is Invisible but Election Outcome will be Real

As many people cast their ballots in the closing days of this seemingly endless presidential campaign, we can reflect on what the elections mean for the nation’s response to the HIV epidemic. HIV as an issue, and as a day-to-day reality for more than 1 million individuals in the United States was virtually invisible in this year’s election campaign. Indeed, health care overall had a low profile in the campaign. However, elections do have consequences, even on issues hidden throughout the campaigns. The decision on who sits in the Oval Office for the next four years will be consequential for people living with or affected by HIV. We should cast our votes with this potential fallout on our minds.  

Given the stark differences between the two major presidential candidates on health care, it is ironic that the issue has been so low key. In the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, nearly three-fourths of those polled felt that the health care views of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are very different:

 For people living with or affected by HIV, the differences can be very impactful. Mrs. Clinton has a stated strategy for addressing HIV/AIDS. Mr. Trump has articulated no policy or made any statements that address HIV or AIDS. On the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Mrs. Clinton supports defending and expanding health care reform, including expanding Medicaid in the remaining states that have not done so. Mr. Trump favors complete repeal of the ACA, encourages the use of Health Savings Accounts, and supports the purchase of health plans across state lines.

The candidates also differ sharply on Medicaid, beyond their differences on Medicaid expansion. Clinton supports maintaining the current financing structure for Medicaid while Trump favors transforming Medicaid into a block grant program. On Medicare, Mrs. Clinton supports allowing people 55-64 years of age to buy into the program and supports allowing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to negotiate on drug prices. Mr. Trump’s campaign is silent on Medicare. These are critical issues to people living with HIV. Together, these programs provide health coverage to more than 65% of people living with HIV. The importance of Medicare will only increase as the number of people living with HIV continue to age into the program.

While AIDS United, as a not-for-profit organization governed by U.S. tax laws, cannot support or oppose any candidate or political party. We do vigorously support voters being aware of the issues, being engaged in the voting process, and being mindful of the consequences of their votes. We know that voting is a form of HIV advocacy. 

HIV and health care may not have been visible campaign issues, but the health and wellness of people living with and affected by HIV are real and very visible. Each of you will need to decide which candidate will better protect and advance your health and wellness and that of your community. But please, do not be complacent. The differences between the candidates are real and so will be the consequences of this election. It’s your life and it’s your vote. Use it as if your life depended on it, because it may. 

Posted By: Ronald Johnson, Vice President of Policy & Advocacy, AIDS United - Friday, November 04, 2016

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