Bernie Sanders is seeking to capitalise on outrage over Hillary Clinton’s AIDS comments – by courting activists with his own comprehensive plan.
Last week, Democratic Presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton was forced to apologise after she praised the late Nancy Reagan and husband Ronald Reagan for starting a “national conversation” on AIDS.
The Reagan White House is mainly remembered by activists for its callous disregard for the AIDS epidemic, with one chilling recording featuring Reagan’s press secretary laughing about gay people’s deaths, after a question from a reporter.
Mrs Clinton previously enjoyed strong support from LGBT groups and HIV charities given her record on the issue – but the candidate’s gaffe may play into the hands of Democratic rival Bernie Sanders, who is now attempting to court prominent HIV activists.
Senator Sanders has rolled out a bold HIV/AIDS strategy – and while there is no suggestion the timing between the two events is related, he could not have picked a better time to be making overtures on the issue.
The strategy published on his website includes axing patents and instead creating a government-funded ‘prize’ fund for HIV research and innovation.
It explains: “As president, Bernie will fight to reform the existing patent laws written by and for the pharmaceutical industry to boost their profits and which make medicine so expensive in the United States.
“To lower costs for HIV/AIDS drugs everywhere, Bernie has a plan that would establish a multibillion-dollar prize fund to incentivize drug development. This prize fund would replace our country’s broken system that drives drug prices up through government-sanctioned monopolies.
“Bernie’s plan would provide virtually universal access to lower-cost life-saving medicines for HIV/AIDS as soon as they are approved for sale.
“Under Bernie’s plan, innovation would be rewarded annually from a Prize Fund for HIV/AIDS therapies. The amount of money in the Prize Fund for HIV/AIDS would be more than $3 billion per year.
“The Prize Fund would reward medical researchers and developers of medicines based primarily upon the added therapeutic value a new treatment offers and the number of people it benefits.
“Instead of a system where the market is manipulated to keep out all competition, companies would be rewarded for their innovation with a cash prize for their medical innovations, rather than through the grant of a monopoly. Under Bernie’s plan, drugs would have generic competition immediately after FDA approval.
“In other words, this plan would break the link between drug development and the rewards for medical research and development. In doing so, we will reward true innovation, eliminate the market incentive for copycat drugs and get all HIV/AIDS treatments to the people who need them at generic prices.”
He also pledges to open up access to HIV services through his proposals for universal health care, to boost funding to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and to ban trade agreements that may push up drug prices.
Meanwhile, Clinton promises “secure affordable treatment for people living with HIV and AIDS”.
Her platform states: “While the United States has made great progress in the treatment and prevention of HIV and AIDS, our job is not done.
“As secretary of state, Hillary began an ambitious campaign to usher in an AIDS-free generation. As president, she will continue to drive towards that goal by calling on all Republican governors to extend Medicaid coverage to provide life-saving health care to people living with HIV, capping out-of pocket expenses for people with HIV/AIDS, and expanding the utilization of HIV prevention medications, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).”