A Tool Kit for Action
With the pressing need to control the pandemic, this U.S. presidential election campaign season opens unprecedented opportunities for IDSA and HIVMA members to examine differences in the candidates’ approaches to public health, health care and science and to consider what their differences will mean to critical infectious diseases and HIV responses in the short and long-term. Engaging with the candidates offers important opportunities to educate them on these issues that are important to communities across America. While IDSA and HIVMA are non-partisan organizations and do not endorse political candidates, we encourage you to participate in virtual events with candidates, contact the campaigns through their website to share your expertise and perspectives, and ask candidates or their staff questions about ID and HIV priorities. Click here to view a petition signed by over 500 members of IDSA, HIVMA, and PIDS urging all presidential candidates to prioritize responses to infectious diseases threats.
- Use social media to ask candidates about their positions. Click here for our #2020questions social media toolkit.
- Check out the candidates’ websites for information about events in your community.
- Keep questions clear and succinct.
- Bring colleagues with you.
- Share a photo of yourself in action with IDSA and HIVMA so we can celebrate your advocacy and encourage others to participate.
- Don’t hesitate to contact IDSA and HIVMA staff at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, or if you need additional resources.
Questions for Candidates
Introduce your questions with the context provided for each topic, and ask as many as you can. An easy-to-download and print version of the below list can be found here.
The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the critical importance of pandemic preparedness, domestically and globally, and the tremendous human and economic costs of being unprepared.
- Can you describe the key components of your plan to lead our country out of this pandemic? To address the pandemic globally?
- What lessons have you learned from the current pandemic and how would you apply them to strengthen our preparedness for the next pandemic?
- The World Health Organization plays a pivotal role in international research coordination as well as capacity building and surveillance to detect prevent and respond to outbreaks of pandemic potential. What relationship do you see the United States engaging in with WHO in the future? (see the IDSA/HIVMA/SHEA/PIDS/SIDP July 15 statement on the role of WHO)
- What is your plan to increase testing capacity, the supply of personal protective equipment and the public health workforce to conduct contact tracing workforce?
- How do you plan to ensure a transparent and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments?
Antibiotic resistance is swiftly diminishing our ability to fight once easily treatable infections while the antibiotic pipeline has collapsed. Resistant infections kill up to 162,000 people in the U.S. annually, with the prediction of 10 million people dying globally by 2050 unless change occurs. Medical advances that include transplantation and cancer therapy are threatened by antibiotic resistance. The current pandemic has exacerbated and highlighted the impacts of superinfections that do not respond to existing antibiotics.
- What commitments can you make to address this threat to promote appropriate antibiotic use and invest in the research and development of new antibiotics?
- Will you commit to new investments in antibiotic R&D, new policies to establish antibiotic stewardship in all health care facilities, and new resources for surveillance and prevention?
Nearly 80 percent of U.S. counties do not have a single infectious diseases physician. Counties with the greatest COVID-19 prevalence have few or no physicians specializing in infectious diseases. At the same time, fewer physicians now enter the fields of ID and HIV, in part due to high medical school debt coupled with low compensation relative to other specialties.
Fewer physicians now enter the fields of ID and HIV, in part due to high medical school debt coupled with low compensation relative to other specialties. A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study predicted a shortfall in HIV physicians beginning this year. And yet the ongoing pandemic has shown the expertise of these fields will continue to be essential.
- What will you do to ensure we have the ID / HIV workforce needed to respond to outbreaks, prevent and treat life-threatening infections and drive innovation?
- Will you commit to re-evaluating and recalibrating reimbursement for cognitive care services and advancing new payment models to ensure ID and HIV physicians are fairly compensated?
We have the prevention and treatment tools in-hand to end HIV as an epidemic in the U.S. and yet new HIV infections are not diminishing, and the U.S. ranks last among high-income countries in rates of viral suppression among people living with HIV. Hepatitis C virus can now be cured, but in the U.S. new hepatitis C cases increased 3.5-fold from 2010 to 2016 largely due to the opioid epidemic, and barriers to care remain high.
- Will you commit to ending HIV as an epidemic in the U.S.?
- Will you commit to eliminating the hepatitis C virus in the U.S.?
- How will you expand access to HIV prevention for the populations at highest risk including young gay men of color and transgender individuals?
- How will you decrease the cost of HIV treatment and reduce barriers to hepatitis C treatment?
- What actions will you take to reduce stigma and discrimination as barriers to preventing and treating communicable diseases, including HIV and hepatitis C?
Vaccines are among our most effective public health tools, yet vaccine hesitancy due to misinformation and healthcare barriers has fueled the measles resurgence and limits prevention of serious illnesses that include influenza, shingles, pertussis, and hepatitis A and B.
- What will you do to increase vaccination for children and adults?
- What is your plan to combat vaccine hesitancy and misinformation?
- Will you commit to Medicare coverage for all CDC recommended vaccines for people age 65 and over?
- How do you plan to increase vaccination rates across the globe?
Systemic racism is a public health crisis and health inequities have had longstanding negative impacts on African Americans, Latinx, Native Americans and other communities of color. The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on health disparities, but they have long been evident in other infectious disease epidemics like HIV.
- How do you plan to address health disparities, specifically as they relate to infectious diseases?
- How will you expand access to affordable, comprehensive healthcare coverage?
The opioid epidemic is driving significant increases across the U.S. in viral hepatitis, HIV, endocarditis, which is an infection of the heart valve, as well as other serious and life-threatening infections.
- What will you do to address infectious diseases associated with injection drug use?
- Will you support the full spectrum of effective harm reduction strategies including expanding syringe services programs and allowing safe injection sites where approved by the local jurisdiction?
- Will you commit to sustaining funding to track and respond to infections linked to injection drug use?
- How would you integrate substance use disorder treatment and infectious diseases prevention and treatment to reduce deaths due to drug use and to improve health outcomes?
Sexually transmitted infections are skyrocketing, in part due to a weakening public health system and the opioid epidemic. This includes chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, including infants born with syphilis, where cases more than doubled from 2013 to 2017.
- How will you address this growing epidemic?
- How will you ensure increased and stable funding to support a robust public health workforce and infrastructure throughout the country?
- How will you reduce barriers to STD screening and treatment including the high cost of laboratory testing and of Penicillin benzathine, which is used to treat syphilis?
With rising rates of STDs and HCV, ID and HIV providers face challenges providing effective treatment when their patients face cost barriers.
Outbreaks of emerging and reemerging infectious diseases across the globe, including the current COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China, spur community destabilization and present threats of global spread.
Climate change is a public health emergency with impacts on human health and raised risks of increased waterborne, zoonotic (animal-related), and vector (mosquito, tick, flea)-borne infectious diseases, as well as infections related to population displacement and severe weather events. Major storms and rising sea levels could lead to cholera. Mosquitos could spread, placing new populations at risk of dengue, Zika, and Lyme disease. Influenza strains could become increasingly diverse as animals, vectors, and humans are forced into closer contact.
- Will you commit to advancing policies that decrease greenhouse gas emissions and promote adaptation and resilience for the impacts of climate change?
- Will you commit to increasing resources for public health infrastructure and research to specifically respond to the infectious diseases impacts of climate change?