General Articles

The Politics of HIV/AIDS Prevention 2008: Presidential Candidates Provide Views on Sex Education, Needle Exchange, National AIDS Plan, PEPFAR

This is the third article in SIECUS’ continuing series uncovering the presidential candidates’ views on topics related to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

In advance of World AIDS Day 2007, several organizations that focus on stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS surveyed the Presidential candidates to find out where they stand on issues related to HIV/AIDS prevention.  The organizations’ reports found broad differences between Democratic and Republican Presidential candidates on nearly every HIV/AIDS issue and found that Democratic candidates strongly supported such issues as sex education and needle exchange.

One survey, released on November 28th, was conducted by a coalition of central Iowa agencies concerned about the HIV crisis and invited all 2008 presidential candidates to respond to three questions regarding the national and global HIV epidemic.  The coalition included AIDS Project of Central Iowa, Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa, the American Red Cross Central Iowa Chapter, Lutheran Services in Iowa Refugee Cooperative, Urban Dreams, Community HIV/Hepatitis Advocates of Iowa Network, and Creative Visions. 1   

Among the Democratic candidates, Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), former Senator John Edwards (D-NC), Senator Barak Obama (D-IL), and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson met the deadline for the survey.  Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) responded after the deadline and it was too late for her answers to be included in materials sent out by the coalition. Among the Republican candidates, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney declined to answer the questionnaire.  The remaining Republican and Democratic candidates did not respond.2

All of the Democrats who responded, including Clinton’s late response, answered yes when asked if they would “support the replacement of funding for international and domestic ‘abstinence only’ HIV prevention programs with scientifically based, comprehensive, age-appropriate sexuality education programs.”  All respondents also said they “support access to sterile syringes, as a means of protecting public health, by lifting the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange.” They also responded “yes” to a question about whether they “support the Early Treatment for HIV Act (ETHA), which expands Medicaid for HIV-positive people who would otherwise need to become completely disabled in order to qualify for Medicaid-covered services.” 3

Also released on November 28th were candidate questionnaires and Where Do They Stand? The Gay Men’s Health Crisis Report on the 2008 Presidential Candidates and HIV AIDS, a detailed portrait of every candidate’s history in public life centering around HIV/AIDS issues.  For the launch of, Housing Works, Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, polled all 16 presidential hopefuls on 19 HIV/AIDS-related issues ranging from needle exchange funding to abstinence-only-until-marriage programs to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).  For their comprehensive report on the candidates’ positions, Where do They Stand?,GMHC used the candidate questionnaires, as well as voting records and public comments.4

The two reports found that:

  •  All eight Democratic candidates support comprehensive sexuality education and demonstrate a willingness to implement prevention strategies regarding sexual behavior that are based on evidence and not ideology.  Three candidates—former Senator Edwards, Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), and Senator Obama—said they wanted to end federal funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Seven of the eight Republican candidates have opposed comprehensive sexuality education (former New York City Mayor Giuliani is reported to have a mixed-record on the issue).5

  • Seven of the eight Democratic candidates also support syringe exchange programs and the three leading Democratic candidates—Senator Clinton, Senator Obama, and former Senator Edwards—have all publicly supported ending the ban on federal funding for needle exchange.  

  • Five of the candidates—Senator Clinton, former Senator Edwards, Senator Obama, Representative Kucinich, and Governor Bill Richardson—have committed to crafting a national AIDS strategy early in their first term if elected.  This comprehensive national AIDS strategy would include measurable goals, timelines, and accountability mechanisms.  It would be designed to bring HIV incidence down, increase access to care, and reduce HIV-related health disparities in the United States.  While the United States requires nations applying for federal funding under PEPFAR to develop such plans, it has yet to develop one of its own.

  • On global issues, seven of the Democratic candidates have committed to investing $50 billion to fight HIV/AIDS globally over the next five years. The report found that no Republican candidate has made a similar commitment. Most of the Democrats support lifting the ban against HIV-positive foreign nationals visiting and/or immigrating to the United States, while most Republican candidates either support the existing ban or have not come out against it.

These surveys of the Presidential candidate’s views on a variety of HIV/AIDS-related issues reflect the importance of knowing where the candidates stand on these important issues.  For continuing coverage on the candidates’ views, visit


  1. AIDS Project of Central Iowa, “World AIDS Day 2007 Challenges Presidential Candidates to “Take the Lead,” Press Release published 28 November 2007, accessed 03 December 2007, <>.
  2. “Democrats support lifting of ban on funding needle exchanges,” Associated Press/Sioux City Journal, 29 November 2007, accessed 03 December 2007, <
  3. AIDS Project of Central Iowa.
  4. Housing Works, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and AIDS Foundation of Chicago, “Leading AIDS Groups Turn Up the Heat on ’08 Presidential Candidates,” Press Release published 28 November 2007, accessed 03 December 2007, <>.
  5. Ibid.; Daryl J. Cochrane, MPA and Kristin D. Goodwin, MSW, “Where Do They Stand? The Gay Men’s Health Crisis Report on the 2008 Presidential Candidates and HIV AIDS,” Gay Men’s Health Crisis, accessed 3 December 2007, <>.