On Dec. 3, 2015, the New York City HIV service agency, Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), sent 10 questions to the presidential candidates from both parties. These questions concerned the candidates’ positions on HIV, health care, and LGBT rights. GMHC informed all candidates that it would publish their responses and non-responses. Candidates had until January 18, 2016 to respond.


Only the Democratic candidates responded: Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders. O’Malley has since withdrawn from the race.

This article summarizes the candidate’s positions on LGBT rights, HIV, and healthcare, based on their websites and their responses to the GMHC questions. The responses of Clinton confirmed her reputation as a policy “wonk,” with expertise in many areas. She responded in a detailed and well-informed manner. Most of her experience with HIV emerged from her role administering the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) as Secretary of State.

The Sanders campaign, in contrast, has emphasized two major issues: Income Inequality and his Medicare for All plan. Because of that emphasis, Sanders’ responses to other issues frequently lack the policy details of those of Clinton. Only one candidate, O’Malley, mentioned the issue of HIV criminalization. The responses of Clinton and Sanders on LGBT rights and HIV politics lie firmly within the mainstream.

Both Clinton and Sanders oppose the FDA’s revisions to the ban on gay men donating blood, as it is discriminatory and not based on science. Both candidates support needle exchange programs, Medicare’s negotiation of lower drug prices, and the gender identity inclusive Equality Act of 2015. In their statements on LGBT issues, both candidates consistently endorse gender identity issues.

Their positions do differ on issues related to healthcare economics.

At present, the deductible limits out-of-pocket (OOP) costs for prescription drugs, but deductibles can exceed $1,000, which can be a barrier for some people. Clinton proposes capping OOP drug costs at $250 per year. She also supports eliminating subsidies for direct to consumer advertising and allocating those funds towards research.

Patents motivate drug companies to develop new drugs by restricting competition. After a patent is granted, no other company can market the product linked to that patent for 20 years. Only when that patent expires can the drug become a generic, causing a dramatic price drop. Sanders favors replacing the motivation of restricted competition with the motivation of a onetime cash reward. Under Sanders’ proposal, the drug would then be generic and competition can occur.

Sanders favors expanding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to a Medicare model. This would separate health insurance from employment. As this proposal is too complex for the scope of this article, please visit his website for more information.

SFGN also examined the websites of Republican presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump for information on their positions on these issues. Cruz’s website emphasizes his support for “Religious Liberty” and defines family as exclusively heterosexual. Trump’s and Kasich’s websites do not reference LGBT rights. Trump’s, Kasich’s and Cruz’s websites fail to reference HIV. Rubio and Kasich support repealing the ACA. Kasich and Cruz are anti-choice.

Focusing on policies rather than candidates outlasts any given election. People can question candidates for other offices about their support of specific policies. For this article SFGN examined these candidates on a narrow range of issues: LGBT rights, HIV, and to a certain extent healthcare economics. For their positions on other issues, please visit their respective websites.

To examine the policies of specific candidates, please visit their websites: Berniesanders.com/issues, DonaldJTrump.com, HillaryClinton.com/issues, https://johnkasich.com/issues/ and https://www.tedcruz.org/issues/

To read the full GMHC report on the candidate’s responses to ten questions on HIV issues, please visit http://bit.ly/1nAOUSp