Dear Secretary Clinton,
With your recent statement about the legacy of Nancy Reagan so fresh in my mind, I am writing to ask you to do something more than tweet an apology to my community. I'm asking you to do something about HIV/AIDS, something no candidate has yet committed to doing, and no POTUS has been able to do so far--end the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The Reagans had a unique position in history, they could have turned the tide on AIDS, but they didn't. What they did, and what they said, is shameful--and as you know during their time in office thousands of Americans died. Since then, America has lost well over 650,000 to AIDS. And the death toll, and the toll on this nation, has not changed in thirty-five years. The toll on black gay men, on homeless youth, on transgender women--these are real people facing profoundly higher risk today--when we have treatment that could save our lives, and socio-economic barriers blocking access, we need a POTUS who will lead us out of this miasma of suffering--the exact opposite of the Reagan administration.
When Martin Shkreli raised the price of an HIV drug at Turing Labs, you rightly went mad with rage. Shkreli was roundly criticized, arrested for fraud, and your rival Bernie Sanders took the check Shkreli gave his campaign and gave it to an HIV Clinic. In 2016, you have raised more campaign cash from large pharmaceutical companies than any other candidate. When do you return that check? Prove to us what you have insisted all along, that money cannot buy your vote--prove this by making a commitment to ending HIV/AIDS.
It's time to talk about Gilead Sciences--maker of Truvada (PrEP)--and the prices Gilead is charging for this drug, and all of their HIV/AIDS medications. It's time for a candidate to challenge Gilead about their pricing of Harvoni, a cure for Hep-C. The single largest impediment to access to treatment for HIV and Hep-C patients is the prices Gilead charges for their drugs. It's time to ask why Congress is not investigating Gilead. It's time to threaten revocation of patents, break up their monopoly on HIV, if Gilead does not make these life saving treatments available to all. We can no longer allow one company to control five out of six of the first line patents for HIV treatment, and the only known prophylaxis for HIV--Truvada. It's time to rein in Gilead's price lock on our lives.
When the U.S. Senate, in a bi-partisan investigation of Gilead's pricing of Sovaldi, condemned the company and found evidence that Gilead priced their drugs in a manner that would assure no end to Hep-C--no one budged. No candidate stumped, and no one screamed but those of us who rely on Gilead drugs for our lives. Like the 1980's, we are shouting in a vacuum all over again--prove to me that someone is listening and condemn Gilead Sciences. Talk about PrEP, PEP, and TASP, and you will flout Nancy Reagan's bitter legacy.
I am asking you to not only revise your thinking about the Reagans, I am asking you to go one better and commit to ending HIV/AIDS and Hep-C. This you must do, because you can--because the tools and treatments are available--what we lack is leadership and focus--access and accountability. It would be the best way to assure my community you mean business when you say you misspoke about Nancy Reagan, and that you not only want our vote--you'll fight for it.
I have been fighting for my life since Reagan was in office. I remember the conversation about AIDS Nancy Reagan started--I remember the dark black wind of nothingness. I remember watching my young friends die, their bodies loaded into lawn and leaf bags and dragged to Potter's Field. And as the years past and the Reagans silence roared, it grew dense, it echoed like a fallen tree in a primeval forest where no one heard. As a result of the inaction from the Reagan administration over thirty-five million people are infected with HIV, and forty million have died worldwide.
Nancy Reagan's AIDS legacy was nonexistent--she started nothing--in a letter to Rock Hudson's friend she pined: "I cannot do something for him that I wouldn't do for anyone else." And she was right--she did nothing for him, and she did nothing for anyone else. I urge you to remember that history, never forget it, as I cannot forget thirty-five years later. I dream of dead flowers, I dream of it ending, and I urge you to do something more than tweet an apology--talk about AIDS, talk about drug pricing and access to healthcare for all people at risk for the virus. Talk about what you're going to do--then do it.
Allowing Medicare to negotiate prices is just the beginning. We're going to need policies ensuring that any cost savings are reinvested in the systems of care and support--including robust community infrastructure--that people living with, and vulnerable to, HIV infection need. Pledge to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in a way that Nancy Reagan never could, and you will finally be the candidate who earns both forgiveness and my vote.