Senators plan to get tested at World AIDS day conference

Posted on 22 Oct 2006 at 1:00pm
By Michael R. Blood – AP Political Writer

Obama and Brownback want to bring attention to the importance
of HIV testing to help prevent the spread of AIDS virus



Senator Barack Obama (left), and Senator Sam Brownback (right).

LOS ANGELES Another sign of the new Washington: bipartisan HIV testing.

At a World AIDS Day conference in California next month, two potential 2008 presidential rivals Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan. will each take an HIV test and encourage others to do the same.

To reduce stigma around the test and publicize its value, “I’m happy to offer my body for science,” Brownback said in a telephone interview on Nov. 17. “People need to get the test.”

Obama press secretary Tommy Vietor said, “If two United States senators can do it, then everyone else can too.”

Obama “believes it’s crucial that everyone get tested for AIDS to prevent the spread of this deadly disease,” he said.

The senators will take the test Dec. 1 as part of a two-day “Global AIDS Summit” at the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, which sponsors the annual conference.

Rick Warren, the church’s pastor, took an HIV test at the event last year to bring attention to its importance, said spokesman Larry Ross. The test can be done with a finger-prick to draw a blood sample, or by oral swab.

Obama and Brownback are featured speakers on Dec. 1, when they will appear on a panel titled, “We must work together.”

“I think you are seeing the beginning of a great coming together on the left and right dealing with Africa,” said Brownback, about the continent’s AIDS epidemic and social and economic problems. “It’s exciting and it’s big, and I think it will be quite significant in improving people’s lives.”

Warren, Brownback said, “is right at the center of that coalition-building.”

At the conference last year, Warren, author of the best-selling “The Purpose Driven Life,” said he’s encouraging other pastors to offer free AIDS testing and counseling at their churches, start service groups to help HIV patients with daily chores and train lay members to administer crucial anti-viral drugs.

Brownback said he believed it would be the first time he received an HIV test. In August, Obama and his wife, Michelle, took HIV tests before a crowd of thousands at a clinic in Kenya in an effort to battle the social stigmas that have slowed progress in fighting the spread of AIDS.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, November 24, 2006.

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