As the nation continues to prepare for next week, where, Americans will once again cast their ballots for President of the United States and key Congressional seats of the House and Senate, the stakes of this election on the lives of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Ohio cannot be overstated. Among those voters will be Ohioans living with HIV, as well as their families, friends, care providers, and others working to end HIV/AIDS.
The 2012 Election is incredibly important for our clients living with HIV/AIDS. Voting in any election gives us a voice in the political process. Voting gives us, the constituents, power to elect political officials who represent our daily challenges, our needs, and our hopes for the future. If you’ve never signed a petition, called your representative about an important issue, or been involved in any other political activity, voting is your opportunity to speak up.
The most important outcome from the election is whether the Affordable Care Act [ACA], designed by President Obama, will be maintained or repealed. Health care access for 30 million uninsured Americans is at stake, and the myriad changes to health systems that are underway at the federal and state levels could be undermined by any decisions by a new presidential administration that opposes the legislation. Currently, too many people with HIV can’t purchase insurance—either because their HIV is considered a pre-existing condition or because it’s simply too expensive to purchase insurance. So the ACA’s removal of the pre-existing condition barrier is hugely important for people with HIV and would mean many Ohioans have access to health insurance for the first time ever.
With four sitting Supreme Court justices over the age of 70, the next President could decide the composition of our nation’s highest court for decades to come. And as sequestration threatens more than $650 million in funding for HIV/AIDS programs across the country, the outcome of this election could influence any deal Congress works out to avoid these disastrous cuts.
As a 501(c)3 organization, it’s not our role to ask people to vote for a specific candidate, but that does not mean we do not have a responsibility to ensure continued equitable access to information about the
Democratic process and what our rights are as eligible voters in the United States. AIDS Resource Center Ohio (ARC Ohio) and Ohio AIDS Coalition (OAC) are committed to educating voters on relevant ballot issues and providing nonpartisan candidate information so that we elect the best person to represent our needs.
Tuesday’s vote will also decide the future of critical social policies like LGBT equality, funding for women’s health programs, including our partners at Planned Parenthood, and hot button issues like federal funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage education and syringe services programs.
We encourage people to understand the candidates’ commitment to maintaining the “safety net” of supportive programs for people with HIV and public health programs that work toward preventing new HIV infections.
If all the talk is of reducing the deficit without any mention of revenue, then you have to look at Medicaid, Medicare, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, HIV and sexually transmitted infections prevention programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], and the National Institutes of Health [NIH]—all of those programs become a lot more vulnerable to some pretty serious cuts.
The San Francisco AIDS Foundation blog, BETA, recently posted the following election outcome scenarios and their potential impact on our nation’s non-defense discretionary programs:
If Romney wins and the Congress enacts the budget proposed by his running mate, Representative Paul Ryan, there would be minimum cuts of 22% per year for HIV programs, including HOPWA, Ryan White, and HIV prevention at the CDC. That’s on top of the 8.2% cuts required by sequestration!
If President Obama wins a second term, there are indications that the Congress will quickly cut a deal that alters the sequestration to avoid those budget cuts. But regardless of who wins the presidency, if the Congress is unable to come to agreement before the end of the calendar year, sequestration cuts will automatically enact and the U.S. will go over the fiscal cliff.
This column is not intended to endorse a presidential candidate. What BETA does endorse, and we support, is informed decisions about the leaders and policies that affect our health and our communities.
Unfortunately, many states have made it increasingly difficult to cast your vote. Courts across the country, including here in Ohio, are considering a number of controversial voter ID laws, as well as early voting rules, that effectively suppress minority and disabled voting. Given our constituency, we are extremely troubled by these trends. As part of our commitment to voter empowerment and engagement, OAC has launched a series voter education briefs that cover a wide range of topics such as Ohio voter identification regulations, the Supreme Court and the Affordable Care Act, and nonpartisan candidate profiles.
To help ensure that all our constituents have the information they need to exercise their constitutional right to vote, we encourage you to visit the Ohio AIDS Coalition webpage.
We are only 5 days away from an Election that will determine the ways in which we are able to provide life-saving access to prevention, care and treatment services to those living with and at highest risk for HIV/AIDS. Whichever way you cast your vote on November 6, make sure it’s an educated choice. Every vote will matter. Value Your Voice – Vote!