Post submitted by Paul Lisbon

Putting faith into action until there is a cure is critical to ending HIV and AIDS. But Vice President Mike Pence, who routinely refers to himself a “Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order,” failed to do what was needed to combat an HIV and AIDS outbreak in his home state of Indiana.

During his term as Governor of Indiana, Pence repeatedly ignored warning signs that there was a potential for an infectious disease outbreak of HIV in his state, and fought against programs designed to slow the surge of HIV cases in the hardest-hit communities. 

In 2015, then-governor Pence was confronted with an accelerating HIV outbreak in Southern Indiana as a result of the increased sharing of contaminated needles. Pence was reluctant to sanction needle exchanges that could have limited the deadly outbreak, even though medical experts from across Indiana and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged him to do so.  It was only under enormous pressure that Pence was dragged “kicking and screaming” into taking action.

However, Pence also pledged to veto proactive measures to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS, despite the fact that half of Indiana’s counties were at risk for an outbreak.  Even as he was signing legislation to help curb the outbreak, Pence continued to distance himself from the medically-proven fact that needle exchanges are effective public health tools. He even characterized the life-saving program as “an exception” to his long-standing opposition to needle exchanges.

People of faith are in the best position to respond to the moral mandate to end HIV and AIDS. For Pence to call himself a person of faith, but ignore warning signs of an HIV and AIDS epidemic, and act only after being pressured by medical professionals alarmed at the health crisis, is a denial of the moral obligation that he so often speaks of. His reluctance and failure to act during the HIV and AIDS outbreak in his own state speaks volumes about not only his values as a person of faith, but as a leader.

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