AFP, Yahoo! News, Jul. 10
WASHINGTON (AFP)—US Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry promised to lift a ban on immigration to the United Stated by people with AIDS and vowed to double US assistance to a worldwide campaign to combat the deadly and contagious disease.
The new pledges, timed to coincide with the opening in Thailand of the six-day 15th International AIDS Conference, came as a new opinion poll showed the Massachusetts senator widening his lead over President George W. Bush .
Kerry welcomed the upcoming conference and promised to work with US international partners, faith-based and non-governmental organizations to strengthen the world’s capacity for a sustained response to the AIDS epidemic.
But in his statement, he also made a commitment that is likely to draw more fire from conservative groups insisting on tighter immigration requirements.
“I will work with Congress to lift the immigration ban on HIV -positive people that has prohibited the United States from hosting this lifesaving meeting,” promised the senator.
Approximately 40 million people are currently infected with HIV around the world, and six million need antiretroviral therapy now, according to UN experts, who point out that more than 20 million have already been killed by the epidemic.
The United States is testing all new immigrants for HIV, and a positive test is usually grounds for denying admission.
With only about 400,000 people in developing nations having access to treatment, Kerry said, his strategy “starts with doubling US funding.”
President George W. Bush promised last year commit 15 billion dollars to the international campaign to combat AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria over the next five years, and Congress has already begun making allocations under the program.
But the Democratic candidate said the White House was falling short of delivering on its promise.
“I will turn up the diplomatic pressure to seek similar increases from our partners,” Kerry said. “I will provide rapid distribution of quality medicines, including generic affordable, safe and effective drugs.”
He blasted the Bush administration for hampering US efforts in fighting AIDS “with policies crafted to appease its political constituencies, putting ideology before science.”
Meanwhile, a new opinion poll by Newsweek magazine showed the Democratic ticket had widened its lead over the Republicans going into the November 2 US presidential election.
The survey indicated that if elections were held today Democratic candidate John Kerry and running mate John Edwards , both US senators, would get 51 percent of the vote versus 45 percent for Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney .
The numbers represent a five-point jump for the Democratic ticket since May.
But the poll also brought good news to Bush, who saw his job approval rating climb to 48 percent, a six-point increase from two months ago.
While 52 percent of those surveyed said they did not want to see the president re-elected for a second term, 47 percent said they thought Bush will win the election over Kerry, who got 38 percent.