On World AIDS Day we should not only remember the lives we’ve lost and think of those who are continuing to battle this disease, but we should also remember the challenges we’ve overcome and move forward towards the challenges ahead.
Here in Montana, we have a lot of challenges in regard to HIV/AIDS, but it’s important to me to highlight something some people may not pay particular attention to; something that drives me crazy every time I think about it; the particular challenge of Congressman Dennis Rehberg.
Congressman Rehberg has a long history of furthering stigma and reducing access to treatment for people with HIV.
When he was our Lt.Governor, Congressman Rehberg argued against providing treatment for people with HIV, saying, “The problem with AIDS is, you get, you die, so why are we spending any money on people that get it...”
And no apology.
I’ve documented more recently that Congressman Rehberg hasn’t changed his thoughts on fighting this disease. In fact, he wants to eviscerate the budget. His recently released budget bill (in which he solicited no input from Montanans) would cut nearly $33 million from the CDC to fight the spread of HIV, Hep-C and other STDs. Obviously, Congressman Rehberg doesn’t realize that stopping the spread of these diseases now will save us millions of dollars in health care costs down the road- and potentially save the lives of millions of Americans and hundreds of Montanans.
He’s too busy pandering to the Tea Party.
I attended the Governor’s World AIDS Day awards today and I heard the award recipients and the many inspirational people talk about the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day, “Getting to Zero: Zero Infections, Zero Discrimination, Zero AIDS-Related Deaths.” It struck me as I was listening to the speeches, that, over his decades as a politician, Denny Rehberg has done an incredible disservice to his hundreds of constituents living with HIV/AIDS- and their families. His ignorance and inability to separate HIV from stigma and shame is repugnant- and the exact opposite of the hope, selflessness, dedication and service those people in the Capitol Rotunda represented today.
Let’s make sure that by next year’s World AIDS Day Congressman Rehberg won’t be able to work against our efforts to stop the spread of this disease and the stigma associated with it.