Bernie Sanders has a plan to create an AIDS-free generation.
The Democratic candidate’s campaign released a statement on his website in order to address “the great moral issue of our day”— the affordability of HIV medication.
The statement took “profiteering” pharmaceutical companies to task for raising the prices of these treatments, thereby forcing those who live with HIV to pay thousands of dollars each year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at least 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the United States. In 2012, over 13,000 people died of an AIDS-related illness. LGBT people and people of color are particularly at risk. A recent CDC report noted that half of black gay men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime.
“In the richest nation in the world, we must not tolerate a health care system that offers the best care to the rich, while leaving everyone else to fend for themselves,” said the Sanders statement. “We must do everything possible to end the greed of the pharmaceutical companies and get people the medicine they need at a price they can afford.”
To this end, the Sanders team proposed creating a “Prize Fund” of more than $3 billion annually that would “incentivize drug development” and “provide virtually universal access to lower-cost life-saving medicines” as they become available.
The plan also seeks to reform patent laws that privilege pharmaceutical companies. Moreover, as president, Sanders would have the secretary of Health and Human Services “negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies and reduce barriers to the importation of lower-cost drugs from Canada and other countries.”
“The United States is the only major country on earth that does not regulate prescription drug prices in some manner,” the plan pointed out, “and the results have been an unmitigated disaster for patients and their families.”
The Sanders plan called for universal health care and the expansion of health services currently in place, including access to mental health care, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS.
Sanders also stressed the need for civil rights protections for LGBT and HIV-positive people, including safeguards against employment and housing discrimination.
“We all must work together so we can finally realize the goal of an AIDS-free generation,” the statement concluded.
The release of this plan follows remarks made Friday by Hillary Clinton, in which she praised the deceased Nancy Reagan and her husband, President Reagan, for helping to "start a national conversation" on HIV. After a backlash from LGBT groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, Clinton apologized twice.
In a Sunday interview on CNN's State of the Union, Sanders said he was "not sure where Secretary Clinton got her information" and set the record straight.
“They refused to allow that discussion to take place,” he said of the Reagans. “They didn’t get involved in it while so many fellow Americans were getting sick and dying.”
In the past, Sanders has been a vocal opponent of Martin Shkreli, a pharmaceutical executive who raised the price of an AIDS medication by more than 5,000 percent. When Shkreli donated $2,700 to Sanders, in the hopes of gaining an audience with him, Sanders gave the amount to an HIV clinic in Washington, D.C.