Press Room

December 11, 2007

Category: HIV & AIDS

Letter Urges Gov. Huckabee to Repudiate AIDS Remarks, Meet with Ryan White’s Mother

Human Rights Campaign and The AIDS Institute sign letter to Gov. Huckabee asking for meeting with Jeanne White-Ginder

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign and The AIDS Institute sent a letter to Republican presidential candidate Governor Mike Huckabee today asking that he personally meet with Jeanne White-Ginder, the mother of Ryan White, who was diagnosed with AIDS on December 17, 1984, and captivated the attention of millions as he battled the disease and ultimately succumbed to it. As reported by the Associated Press, "Huckabee once advocated isolating AIDS patients from the general public, opposed increased federal funding in the search for a cure and said homosexuality could 'pose a dangerous public health risk.'" In a FOX News interview on Sunday, December 9, Huckabee stood by his remarks and said he still believes today that people living with HIV and AIDS should have been "isolated" even after it was determined the virus was not spread through casual contact.

"Have we not learned the difficult lesson of how devastating these statements based in ignorance and fear can be to American families? Has it been so long ago that we have forgotten how our neighbors had the backs of entire communities turned on them?" the letter, signed by the Human Rights Campaign and AIDS Institute, said. "Governor Huckabee, those dark moments in American history are the direct result of ignorant views that stifle discussion, hinder resources and delay action. We have a moral obligation as a nation to never allow ourselves to repeat the shameful mistakes of the past. And we cannot sit idly by when a candidate for President of the United States tries to lead us back down that path of ignorance and fear."

As a candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in 1992, Huckabee answered 229 questions submitted to him by The Associated Press. The Senate candidate wrote: "It is difficult to understand the public policy towards AIDS. It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents."

As the Associated Press recently reported, "When Huckabee wrote his answers in 1992, it was common knowledge that AIDS could not be spread by casual contact." (Associated Press, December 8, 2007)

In the same election year that Gov. Huckabee answered the questionnaire, Mary Fisher, an HIV-positive former aide to President Gerald R. Ford and founder of the Family AIDS Network, addressed the 1992 Republican National Convention. In her groundbreaking speech, "A Whisper of AIDS," Fisher sought compassion for and understanding of people living with HIV and AIDS and received a standing ovation from a crowd that included the President and Mrs. Ford. To view her 1992 speech visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vTKDFcRDLY

To view the FOX News interview from Sunday visit: http://youtube.com/watch?v=2cT6n-VJ1Xg

The complete letter to the governor follows:

December 10th, 2007

Dear Governor Huckabee:

In 1984, a young boy living in Indiana was diagnosed with AIDS. At the time, that boy, thirteen-year-old Ryan White, had no idea that his life would become a testament of courage and bravery responsible for opening the hearts and minds of millions of people throughout our country and around the world. Six years later, in 1990, Ryan's life ended -- a dear, precious life cut short.

But Ryan's death wasn't the only tragedy in this well-known story in our country's history. Ryan and his family's battle with HIV/AIDS was also a stark reminder of what happens in our country when fear and ignorance go unchecked. Governor Huckabee, the Ryan White family was ridiculed, shunned and ostracized by people who thought the answer was to "isolate" them far away from the rest of society. In 1984, this belief was purely based on ignorance. But these same beliefs, which you espoused in 1992 and have refused to recant today, as a candidate for President of the United States, are completely beyond comprehension.

When you answered the Associated Press questionnaire in 1992, we, in fact, knew a great deal about how HIV was transmitted. Four years earlier, in 1988, the Reagan Administration's Department of Health and Human Services issued a brochure assuring the American public that "you won't get the AIDS virus through every day contact with the people around you in school, in the workplace, at parties, child care centers, or stores." To call for such an oppressive and severe policy like "isolation," when the scientific community and federal government were certain about how HIV is transmitted was then, and remains today, irresponsible. Such statements should be completely repudiated, not simply dismissed as needing to be slightly reworded.

This was not and is not an issue of "political correctness," as you state. Rather, this is an issue of valuing science-based evidence over unfounded fear or prejudice.

Have we not learned the difficult lesson of how devastating these statements based in ignorance and fear can be to American families? Has it been so long ago that we have forgotten how our neighbors had the backs of entire communities turned on them? Governor Huckabee, those dark moments in American history are the direct result of ignorant views that stifle discussion, hinder resources and delay action. We have a moral obligation as a nation to never allow ourselves to repeat the shameful mistakes of the past. And we cannot sit idly by when a candidate for President of the United States tries to lead us back down that path of ignorance and fear.

Governor Huckabee, if you need a reminder of how calls for "isolation" can shatter a Mother's heart, you only need to turn to Jeanne White-Ginder. Today, we respectfully ask you to sit down with her and allow her to share with you Ryan's story. Ms. White-Ginder continues to be active in AIDS advocacy as a member of the board of The AIDS Institute. We hope that, even in 2007, Ryan's story can continue to open hearts and minds.

We would be happy to facilitate a meeting between Ms. White-Ginder and yourself, or a member of your staff. Please feel free to contact Brad Luna, Communications Director for the Human Rights Campaign, at (202) 216-1514 at your convenience.

Sincerely,

Joe Solmonese
President
Human Rights Campaign

A. Gene Copello
Executive Director
The AIDS Institute

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

Tags: