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Despite commitment, Ryan White's mother still waiting to meet with Gov. Huckabee
Despite commitment, Ryan White's mother still waiting to meet with Gov. Huckabee
Nearly a Month of Calls and Letters by The Human Rights Campaign and The AIDS Institute Go Unanswered by Huckabee Campaig

Jeanne White-Ginder, the mother of Ryan White and a Board Member of The AIDS Institute, the Human Rights Campaign and The AIDS Institute are still waiting to meet with Gov. Mike Huckabee after he committed to meeting and discussing his 1992 remarks that people living with HIV and AIDS should have been "isolated." After receiving questions on the campaign trail, Huckabee said on December 11, 2007, "I would be very willing to meet with them."

"Governor Huckabee gave Ryan White's Mother his word that he would meet face-to-face but since that phone call the Huckabee campaign has refused to return any calls. Is Governor Huckabee a man of his word or is this just more typical political double-speak?" said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "It has been 29 days, Jeanne White-Ginder and the HIV/AIDS advocacy community continues to wait."

"We are still waiting for the meeting," said A. Gene Copello, Executive Director of The AIDS Institute. "It is our sincere hope that Governor Huckabee will keep his word given to Jeanne White-Ginder that he will meet with her."

The Human Rights Campaign and The AIDS Institute sent the Huckabee Campaign letters on December 10, 2007 and December 12, 2007. "We look forward to discussing our experiences and personal insight with you and your campaign," the second letter said. "This was not and is not an issue of 'political correctness,' as you have stated previously. Rather, this is an issue of valuing science-based evidence over unfounded fear or prejudice."

Huckabee, via phone call, contacted Jeanne White-Ginder directly two weeks after the initial letter and agreed to the meeting. Since then, calls by A. Gene Copello, Executive Director of The AIDS Institute, have gone unanswered. Her son, Ryan White, 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 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."

For the latest updates and the Associated Press story from December 11, 2007, visit our blog, HRC Back Story: http://www.hrcbackstory.org/2007/12/breaking-huckab.html

The first letter to Gov. Huckabee:
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 second letter to Gov. Huckabee:
December 12th, 2007

Dear Governor Huckabee:

We wanted to follow-up from our initial letter sent to you Monday evening addressing your comments made in 1992 on the isolation of AIDS patients from the general public - comments that you have refused to recant.

According to media reports published Tuesday, you said: "I would be very willing to meet with them. & I would tell them we've come a long way in research, in treatment."

We are writing to open a dialogue with your campaign to facilitate a meeting between yourself, Jeanne White-Ginder, the mother of Ryan White; Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign; and A. Gene Copello, Executive Director of The AIDS Institute.

As explained in our first letter, Ms. White-Ginder continues to be active in AIDS advocacy as a member of the board of The AIDS Institute. Her son, Ryan, was diagnosed with AIDS on December 17, 1984 at the age of 13, and captivated the attention of millions as he fought to attend school after being expelled due to ignorance of how HIV is transmitted. As you may know, the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, was named is his honor. The act is the United States' largest federally funded program for people living with HIV/AIDS. Congress voted to reauthorize the Act in 1996, 2000 and again in 2006. We hope that, even in 2007, Ryan's story can continue to open hearts and minds.

We look forward to discussing our experiences and personal insight with you and your campaign. This was not and is not an issue of "political correctness," as you have stated previously. Rather, this is an issue of valuing science-based evidence over unfounded fear or prejudice.

To facilitate the logistics of a meeting between Ms. White-Ginder, Mr. Solmonese and Mr. Copello, please contact Brad Luna, Communications Director for the Human Rights Campaign, at (202) 216-1514.

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.

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