Q&A with Lifelong AIDS Alliance
The Lifelong AIDS Alliance has been helping people in Seattle for over 30 years. I have participated in their annual AIDS Walk to raise awareness and money to fight HIV/AIDS, and now it is my honor to answer their questions as a candidate through the Washington HIV/AIDS Community Advocacy Network (WHACAN) -Brendan
Lifelong: “The Department of Health is suggesting that funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and intervention will be cut at least $7 million. Are you concerned that the number of HIV infections per year will increase?”
Brendan Woodward: “Yes I am concerned. I’d like to learn more about how this money is being put to use, and how it is being most effectively spent to reduce infections.”
Lifelong: Do you support funding the syringe exchange programs, which effectively decrease transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C among injection drug users, their sexual partners and children?
Brendan: Yes, if the program is tied with efforts to reduce addiction and drug abuse treatment. My concern is that by providing materials for drug use, we would indirectly increase the number of user and addicts.
Lifelong: Do you support Washington public schools offering up-to-date, comprehensive, medically accurate, age-appropriate and culturally competent sexual health education on HIV risk and prevention?
Brendan: There are a lot of buzz words in that question! Based on a plain reading, yes. For those parents that prefer to teach their own children however, I believe that they should also be granted an opt-out in favor of home study.
Lifelong: Current HIV testing protocols in Washington are opt-in, meaning that a patient needs to request an HIV test, or his or her provider needs to make the assessment that the patient should be offered an HIV test. The subjective nature of these assessments can lead to unnecessarily late diagnoses, worse health outcomes, and increased HIV infection rates. Do you support moving Washington to an opt-out HIV testing state, meaning HIV tests are routinely offered in all primary care and emergency care settings?
Brendan: This opt-out idea would seem to make sense for extremely high-risk individuals, and that assessment should be made by a doctor. I am not in favor of telling health professionals how to do the job they were trained for. Maybe the solution is not a change in policy, but better training for doctors of what risk factors to look for.
Lifelong: Currently, Washington State criminalizes HIV, meaning that people living with HIV/AIDS can be unfairly singled out for prosecution simply because of their HIV-positive status. In addition to perpetuating stigma against people living with HIV, this law discourages HIV testing. Do you support decriminalizing HIV in our state law?
Brendan: It makes sense how the status quo creates a situation of willful ignorance and hinders more widespread testing. I support revising this so that we don’t create a disincentive for people to seek treatment. That said, it should remain a crime to knowingly harm someone. I would like to learn about other states that have changed their approach to this situation. In the end, I want us to work towards a policy that promotes testing, and protects everyone.
Lifelong: Homeless and unstably housed youth are disproportionately LGBTQI-identified; furthermore the CDC estimates that 1 in 4 new HIV infections are among youth ages 13-24. How will you focus state resources to increase the supply of safe, stable and culturally competent housing, healthcare, and other services for homeless and unstable housed youth?
Brendan: I want homeless and unstable housed youth to have access to these services, but I am not confident that the State government is best equipped to meet all these needs. State resources are extremely low and unreliable, but homeless youth are among the most vulnerable among us. They clearly need to be moving in the direction of stability.
Certainly, new Marijuana taxes should be sent this direction. Other solutions may be more comprehensive than increased funding however.
Education opportunities and extra curriculars are one way to bring stability to unstable housed youth. Another area I believe we need to look is towards work waivers that allow youth under 16 to have a job in addition to attending school, and competitive wage rules so that more jobs, internships and apprenticeships can be available to youths in these age groups.