In an October 16 conference call, Senator Barack Obama’s campaign highlighted specific strategies to fight HIV/AIDS in the United States and abroad; they included increasing funds for research, care and prevention as well as developing a national AIDS strategy within the first year of his presidency if elected, The Advocate reports.

According to Diana DeGette, vice chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Obama’s plan will require health insurance providers to cover everyone regardless of pre-existing conditions. They note that a proposed health plan by his rival Senator John McCain does not cover everyone, because insurers would be allowed to move into states that don’t guarantee this coverage.

“As everyone knows, this is critical to the HIV/AIDS community,” she told The Advocate.

In addition, an Obama presidency would bolster funding for the Ryan White CARE Act, which is underfunded despite the rise in the number of new infections in the United States, said Sandra Thurman, former director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy under President Clinton. According to data released in August by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 56,300 new HIV infections were recorded in 2006, marking a 40 percent increase in annual infections from previous estimates.

“We have an epidemic here in the United States, which in many ways has not slowed down,” Thurman said. “We haven’t had an increase in support and funding that’s commensurate with the challenges that we’re facing in communities that already have serious issues to deal with.”

DeGette added that McCain has suggested enacting a spending freeze on nearly all government programs—including the Ryan White CARE Act—to help reduce the country’s deficit.