On November 7, congress members will face voters for the first time since 2004, when Republicans took back the majority. With nearly 800 Americans still on AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) wait lists, health care costs higher than ever and federal bucks pushing dangerous abstinence-only prevention agendas here and abroad, incumbents seem to have a lot of ex-plaining to do. AIDSvote.org, the only organization dedicated to mobilizing people with HIV and their supporters, will be listening. In 2004, AIDSvote briefed voters on presidential hopefuls’ AIDS positions. This fall, the group plans to educate candidates about AIDS and pressure them to justify their positions. “AIDSvote is giving people who feel marginalized or have experienced stigma the tools to impact where candidates stand,” says cofounder Robert Cordero.
With plans to mobilize hundreds of activists across the country, AIDSvote will meet with candidates to offer up AIDS education and questionnaires so voters can study their platforms. The group will also trail candidates at campaign events to demand answers and circulate AIDS-related petitions at public events nationwide. HIV positive South Carolina resident and AIDS-vote volunteer Karen Bates wants her state’s growing ADAP wait list ad-dressed. “Most candidates, Demo-crat or Republican, are clueless when it comes to AIDS,” Bates says.
The AIDS race to watch is the close senatorial battle in Pennsylvania between abstinence-only incumbent Republican Rick Santorum and Democratic challenger Bob Casey. In Indiana, the House’s head abstinence honcho, Republi-can Mark Souder, seems a shoo-in. According to experts, Democratic victories could advance AIDS advocates’ agendas for health care, prevention and prisons and put the executive branch under more scrutiny. However, most agree, that a radical shift will require a new president. So AIDSvote hopes to get AIDS on the ballot now and keep it there in 2008. “For instance, it’s clear Hillary [Clinton] is going to win the New York Senate race,” says Cordero. “But if we get on record about AIDS now, we can hold her to it in 2008 if she runs for president.” Many happy returns.