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From L to R: Senator Bernie Sanders & AIDS activists Kenyon Farrow and Peter Staley. Photo credit: Nadia Rafif


Contacts: Mikola De Roo, 347-585-6051,; Anthony Hayes, 646-591-4893,; Elizabeth Koke, 347-473-7459,

June 1, 2016—The May 25th meeting between Senator Bernie Sanders and 19 AIDS activists in San Bernardino, California, was productive and covered a wide range of important issues in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The 19 attendees—11 of whom are openly living with HIV—represent a larger coalition of over 70 advocates and organizations from across the U.S. who are working on HIV/AIDS issues and want to bring HIV into the forefront of national conversation. The topics discussed during the 45-minute gathering reflected the coalition’s diversity, as well as the socioeconomic complexities and drivers of the AIDS epidemic. Actor-activists Danny Glover and Daniel Franzese were also in attendance.

Activists representing the coalition presented Sanders with a detailed policy proposal calling on all presidential candidates to make new commitments on HIV/AIDS, including:

  • to end AIDS as an epidemic in the U.S. by 2025 by getting to below 12,000 new annual HIV infections;
  • to end the global epidemic by 2030 by increasing the U.S. global AIDS funding by $2 billion per year;
  • to prevent trade deals and intellectual property laws that hinder generic production of affordable medications;
  • to increase funding for HIV/AIDS research;
  • to appoint an HIV advisor for the campaign;
  • to create an expert task force to develop a national plan to end the AIDS epidemic in the U.S.; and
  • to address deficiencies in the Affordable Care Act that obstruct access to care and HIV medications, such as discriminatory insurance company plan designs.

Sanders had publicly committed to the national goal of ending the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. by 2025 and the global epidemic by 2030 prior to the May 25th meeting, but has not yet committed to the requested funding increase of $2 billion per year by 2020 for global efforts. Senator Sanders verbally pledged the following:

  • to support increased funding for research;
  • to create an expert task force to develop a national plan;
  • to include a plank in the Democratic Party platform on the need to increase generic competition for production of HIV/AIDS drugs;
  • and if elected, to launch a social-media campaign to fight HIV discrimination, criminalization, and stigma.

The conversation also focused on groups most marginalized in the response to HIV, including immigrants, sex workers, people who use drugs, incarcerated people, and transgender persons, a topic about which Sanders showed a keen interest in learning more. The California ballot initiative on HIV drug pricing that Sanders supports was discussed for a brief moment, and the coalition at the May 25th meeting has no official position on the initiative and only passed along concerns about it on behalf of other California AIDS groups. The primary dialogue established between Sanders and the coalition during this first in-person meeting focused on shared goals of ending the AIDS epidemic. Full notes from the meeting can be found here.

“The HIV/AIDS community leaders who met with Senator Sanders concluded the May 25th meeting with excitement and good will,” said Jaron Benjamin, Housing Works’ vice president for community mobilization. “Our hope is that we can return to the real task at hand of continuing the national conversation about how to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and we will continue to follow up with the campaign on commitments that Senator Sanders made during the meeting.”


Tranisha Arzah, Peer Advocate, BABES-NETWORK YWCA

Jaron Benjamin, Vice President for Community Mobilization, Housing Works

Marco Alonso Castro-Bojorquez, Activist & Filmmaker

Guillermo Chacón, President, Latino Commission on AIDS; Founder, Hispanic Health Network

Thomas Davis, Health Education Specialist, Los Angeles LGBT Center

Kenyon Farrow, U.S. & Global Health Policy Director, Treatment Action Group (TAG)

Donnie Hue Frazier III, Prevention Training Specialist, APLA Health & Wellness

Ramon Gardenhire, Vice President of Policy & Advocacy, AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC)

Naina Khanna, Executive Director, Positive Women’s Network – USA

Kelsey Louie, MSW, MBA, CEO, Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC)

Hilary McQuie, Director of U.S. Policy & Grassroots Mobilization, Health GAP

Nadia Rafif, Director of Policy, Global Forum on MSM and HIV

Michael Emanuel Rajner, BSW, HIV/AIDS Activist and Social Worker

Venita Ray, Public Affairs Field Specialist, Legacy Community Health

Bamby Salcedo, President and CEO, The TransLatin@ Coalition

Andrew Spieldenner, Ph.D., United States People Living with HIV Caucus

Peter Staley, AIDS Activist

DaShawn Usher, Community Education and Recruitment Manager, New York Blood Center’s Project ACHIEVE; Chair, Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative (YBGLI) Vice-President, Impulse Group NYC

Phill Wilson, President and CEO, Black AIDS Institute

Posted on June 1, 2016 at 1:51 pm