Responses from Democratic Candidates to the Pennsylvania Governor’s Pledge for an AIDS-Free Generation

All spring, ACT UP Philadelphia has been seeking input with groups in Philadelphia and across the state to develop a platform for the next governor of Pennsylvania to endorse. Prior to the primary on May 20th, we circulated a questionnaire about HIV/AIDS-related issues to all of the candidates for governor. Governor Corbett did not respond. The four democratic candidates' responses are below, in the order they were received.

To read the platform and relevant background information, please follow this link.
For questions about the platform, please contact ACT UP, c/o Max Ray: octobermax at gmail dot com.


If you are elected, will you ensure that HIV positive Pennsylvanians have access to nutrition and housing through:

Restoring General Assistance?

Schwartz: Yes. I will enact legislation restoring the cash assistance program in Pennsylvania. This cut by Governor Corbett hurt many people, including persons with illnesses and disabilities, without providing meaningful savings for the Commonwealth.

Wolf: I believe Pennsylvania's playing field isn't fair for the majority of its people. Under Governor Corbett, corporations and the wealthy get all the breaks, while hardworking families all across the Commonwealth struggle to get by. We must work to give all Pennsylvanians equal opportunity for jobs, economic security, and happiness regardless of where they live, the connections of their lobbyist, or who they love.

I know Governor Corbett’s decision to eliminate General Assistance unfairly impacted residents living with HIV and AIDS. As governor, I will work to restore General Assistance for our most vulnerable residents.

McCord: Yes.

McGinty: Yes.

Restoring Governor Corbett’s cuts to food assistance and providing additional SNAP benefits to alleviate federal cuts?

Schwartz: Yes. Our state can, and must, meet the basic needs of our lowest-income citizens – while closing tax loopholes on corporations.

Wolf: Governor Corbett’s asset test for SNAP benefits is just another example of how he has embraced policies intended to hurt our most vulnerable residents. For the overwhelming majority of those who lost their SNAP benefits, it was not because their assets exceed Governor Corbett’s extremely low bar, it was because the paperwork required was too difficult and confusing. As governor, I will repeal the SNAP asset test and I will work to ensure that the federal SNAP cuts do not affect Pennsylvania families.

McCord: Yes.

McGinty: Yes.

Increasing the state's commitment to the State Affordable Housing Trust Fund. How will you do this?

Schwartz: Yes. As governor, I will enact a moderate five percent tax on Marcellus Shale gas drilling in our state, and I will also continue the gas-drilling impact fee, which currently pays for contributions to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. I will expand this fund to benefit people in need of housing, including those with illness and disability, in all areas of our state.

Wolf: Providing affordable housing options to low income Pennsylvanians is essential. As governor, I will investigate options to improve access to affordable housing and explore the possibility of increasing the funding and scope of coverage for the Housing Trust Fund.

McCord: I have called for a dedicated funding stream for the Housing Trust Fund, and I am eager to work with the legislature to identify such a revenue source that can generate at least $25 million per year. Additionally, it should be noted that my drillers’ tax plan would “hold harmless” local communities now benefiting from the impact fee, so they would continue to see the same amount of funding each year (with annual increases proportional to any increase in drilling tax revenues). These dollars can continue to be used for affordable housing projects among others uses. Lastly, aside from just additional funding, we need to make easier and less expensive to build affordable housing projects. I want more municipalities to take advantage of the state’s relatively new land bank law. Using that law, municipalities can offer abandoned or blighted land to developers that transform it into safe and affordable housing.

McGintyThe past few years have indeed been difficult economic times, but this administration has done very little to protect valuable resources and services that serve the important needs to our citizens. I believe that we can do better by our citizens. When I take office, I will call upon key members of my administration to review and provide to me a report on all programs, funding and resources directed to help our most vulnerable citizens, including the State Affordable Housing Trust Fund. I will work with stakeholders and organizations like the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania to find creative and innovative ways to increase funding to this powerful and important program. Programs like these not only help and protect our citizens, but also create jobs and opportunities that grow our economy.

Allowing supportive housing services such as drug and alcohol treatment, housing counseling, and social work to be paid for through Medicaid reimbursement?

Schwartz: Yes. Persons with disabilities should have the right to choose where they live and how their services are delivered. To enhance quality of life, I will implement the Community First Choice Option made available to states by the Affordable Care Act. This initiative is aimed at helping people with disabilities and seniors gain the services they require to remain in their homes – or return home from institutional care, if they wish.

Wolf: As governor, I will look for innovative ways to use Medicaid reimbursements so that low-income residents, including the chronically homeless, have access to the health and social supports to rebuild their lives and have a productive, independent, and healthy future.

McCord: Yes.

McGinty: Yes.

Applying for a Medicaid waiver to allow state Medicaid funds to pay for housing construction and rental assistance for people with HIV/AIDS, and committing $5 million dollars of state money for HIV-specific housing?

Schwartz: To investigate and explore this issue, I will convene stakeholders to help me and my administrative form the best policy and follow best practices to serve persons living with HIV/AIDS.

Wolf: I know it is essential we think about health care as more than just medical care. To have a healthy population, we need to meet more than just medical needs. Our residents need safe, permanent housing options, high quality schools, and accessible social services. As governor, I will examine different waiver options that will allow us to use Medicaid dollars to address those needs that impact health outcomes.

McCord: Yes.

McGinty: Yes.

Allowing local governments that invest in housing programs to share in the state’s resulting savings in Medicaid and prison costs?

Schwartz: To investigate and explore this issue, I will convene stakeholders to help me and my administrative form the best policy and follow the best practices to serve persons living with HIV/AIDS.

Wolf: A significant amount of the State’s budget is distributed to local governments for the purpose of providing key services to our residents. As governor, I will work to direct State funds to high quality programs that have proven to have long-term positive benefits for those who participate. Directing our tax dollars to such programs will result in cost savings that can be reinvested in additional high quality programs for residents.

McCord: Yes.

McGinty: Yes.

Creating housing first policies that provide housing for individuals regardless of mental health status or drug or alcohol addiction?

Schwartz: Yes.

Wolf: I know that housing first policies positively impact chronically homeless residents. As governor, I will work with local governments and other key stakeholders to explore ways to make housing affordable and accessible to all residents.

McCord: Yes.

McGinty: Yes.

Increasing the state's contribution to HOPWA whenever federal funding is cut or flatlined?

Schwartz: Yes. This will be part of Pennsylvania's plan to help people with HIV/AIDS have access to safe, decent housing.

Wolf: As stated above, I will work to ensure that all residents have access to affordable housing. I know that for individuals living with HIV and AIDS, safe, long-term housing is directly tied to positive health outcomes.

McCord: To the extent I am able given future budget pressures, I will consider replacing all or a portion of any lost federal housing funds to benefit people with AIDS.

McGinty: Yes.

Will you ensure every Pennsylvanian has access to HIV prevention, through:

Expanding Medicaid without punitive measures for people who miss premiums (e.g. people should not lose coverage for 3 months if they miss a single payment)?

Schwartz: Yes.

Wolf: Yes, I believe it is essential that we expand Medicaid. Governor Corbett’s Healthy PA is just another move by his administration to direct taxpayers’ dollars to private companies at the expense of hardworking Pennsylvanians. As governor, I will expand access to Medicaid, which will increase health care coverage to nearly half-a-million Pennsylvanians, save the Commonwealth millions of dollars, and pump billions into the state’s economy.

McCord: Yes.

McGinty: Yes.

Implementing the Affordable Care Act’s coverage of routine opt-out HIV screening at every medical visit, in a way that respects the human right to privacy?

Schwartz: Yes.

Wolf: Yes, I will support efforts to incorporate opt-out HIV screening into regular medical appointments.

McCord: Yes.

McGinty: Yes.

Restoring Corbett’s cuts to HIV prevention that amounted to 40% cuts in Philadelphia over three years?

Schwartz: Yes.

Wolf: As governor, I will work hard to ensure that HIV prevention and treatment programs are appropriately funded so that we can stop the spread of this disease and finally achieve an AIDS-free generation.

McCord: Yes.

McGinty: Yes.

Ensuring that HIV-outreach efforts fight stigma in those communities most affected, including the LGBTQ community, women, people of color, and injection drug users?

Schwartz: Yes.

Wolf: I know breaking down the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS– especially for those living in communities most affected – will help ensure that more individuals get tested and those infected are connected with medical and social services. As governor, I will support the continued efforts of AIDS Service organizations, public health organizations, and social services to provide HIV-outreach that fights the stigma related to the infection.

McCord: Yes.

McGinty: Yes.

Will you ensure that treatment and prevention materials are available in Spanish and French?

Schwartz: Yes. These vital materials need to be available to people using all of the widely-spoken languages in our state, and not just Spanish and French.

Wolf: I will support efforts to print treatment and prevention materials in languages other than English, like Spanish and French.

McCord: Yes.

McGinty: Yes.

Ensuring that condoms are available to people in state prisons and jails?

Schwartz: Yes. Inmates in state custody have the right to be protected. This includes protection from sexually transmitted diseases, which are a fact of life in prisons. I support condom distribution.

Wolf: I recognize that our correctional facilities deal with complex public health issues. As governor, I will instruct my Secretary of the Department of Corrections to investigate these issues, including the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and recommend commonsense policy solutions.

McCord: I recognize that having condoms in prisons has been found to generate savings by preventing the spread of disease, but I do have a concern, and that has to do with safety. While intercourse among inmates within corrections facilities is already against the rules of those institutions, there is no question it is taking place with serious implications. However, I respect the work of corrections officers who must work in already dangerous conditions, and these public employees have voiced grave concerns about the potential security threats easy access to condoms may pose. Having said that, I am always willing to engage in a conversation with people and groups of differing perspectives to develop a consensus.

McGinty: Yes.

Will you ensure every Pennsylvanian has access to HIV treatment at the time of diagnosis, through:

Continuing to support Pennsylvania’s model Special Pharmaceutical Benefits Program, regularly updating the SPBP formulary to include cutting-edge HIV treatments as soon as they’re approved, for the lowest price possible?

Schwartz: Yes. This is a vital program for individuals not eligible for Medicaid prescription-drug services.

Wolf: Yes

McCord: Yes.

McGinty: Yes.

Ensuring that ACA Insurers in Pennsylvania accept Ryan White funds?

Schwartz: Yes. To help community-based organizations provide HIV-related services, I voted in Congress for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act.

Wolf: Yes, I know Ryan White funding allows individuals living with HIV and AIDS to access important services that might not be covered by their insurer.

McCord: Yes.

McGinty: Yes.

Maintaining Ryan White funding in addition to expanding Medicaid?

Schwartz: Yes.

Wolf: Yes, Medical Case Management services are an important element in ensuring eligible individuals have a comprehensive medical plan that addresses both medical and social needs and connects them with important community supports so that they can maintain their health and avoid more costly medical intervention and hospitalization.

McCord: Yes.

McGinty: Yes.

Ensuring continued support for Medical Case Management service, which removes barriers to care for people living with HIV/AIDS?

Schwartz: Yes.

Wolf: Yes, Medical Case Management services are an important element in ensuring eligible individuals have a comprehensive medical plan that addresses both medical and social needs and connects them with important community supports so that they can maintain their health and avoid more costly medical intervention and hospitalization.

McCord: Yes.

McGinty: Yes.

Will you support harm reduction through:

Making naloxone (Narcan) available without a prescription, and ensuring that first responders carry naloxone and are trained in its use?

Schwartz: To investigate and explore this issue, I will convene stakeholders to help me and my administrative form the best policy and follow best practices to serve persons living with HIV/AIDS.

Wolf: Doctors, treatment specialists, public health experts, and law enforcement officials currently cite prescription drug overdoses as an epidemic. I know that making Narcan more accessible will save lives. As governor, I will support efforts to equip first responders with Narcan and train them in how to use it.

McCord: Yes.

McGinty: Yes.

Instructing the Department of Public Health to issue a statement that Pennsylvania’s drug paraphernalia laws do not criminalize the distribution of clean syringes for the purpose of preventing the spread of illness, and that state law enforcement and prosecutors will abide by this interpretation?

Schwartz: Yes.

Wolf: As governor, I will work with key stakeholders and representatives from the Office of General Counsel to explore how we can support the efforts of those who are working to get dirty needles off of our streets and curb the spread of diseases connected to intravenous drug use.

McCord: Yes.

McGinty: Yes.

Exploring legal options to ensure that state public health funds can support syringe exchanges?

Schwartz: Yes. Needle exchange programs have proved effective in slowing the spread of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. I support expansion of these programs in Pennsylvania.

Wolf: I support funding for these programs but I believe that they need to be part of a larger, comprehensive effort to address drug use in our communities.

McCord: Yes.

McGinty: Yes.

Will you support a national fee on Wall Street financial transactions, specifically one that:

Places a small tax on all types of financial transactions by large institutions and earmarks revenues specifically for fighting the HIV/AIDS crisis?

Schwartz: This sort of national fee is not within the purview of a Pennsylvania governor.

Wolf: I believe when we earmark revenues for a specific program, we end up playing games with those funds so that we can pay for other priorities. I know we need to fund HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment programs. As governor, I will work to ensure that Pennsylvania HIV and AIDS programs have the funding needed to provide high quality services.

McCord: Generally, I see the benefits of such a tax. The burden would be placed largely on high-volume traders and speculators who can wreak havoc on markets. It may promote more responsible and sustainable investment practices, plus, it would be little felt by the occasional day trader. Having said that, while I agree with the fee in concept, the devil is always in the details, so I would have to see a specific proposal before committing.

McGinty: Fighting HIV/AIDS will be a top priority of mine as governor. I will support all efforts to ensure that full funding of programs to prevent HIV/AIDS and to care for those who are infected on the state level. I am a proponent of enacting this fee to guarantee adequate funding for HIV/AIDS programs on the national level.

Groups endorsing this platform:

    Action AIDS
  • ACT UP Philadelphia
  • AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania
  • AIDSNET Lehigh Valley
  • Equality PA
  • Family First Health of York, PA
  • GALAEI Philadelphia
  • Health GAP (Global Access Project) USA
  • Mazzoni Center Philadelphia
  • Prevention Point Philadelphia
  • Positive Health Clinic of Allegheny Health Network
  • Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates
  • Positive Women's Network Pennsylvania
  • Student Global AIDS Campaign Chapters at Lincoln University, University of Pennsylvania, Penn State
  • Whosoever Metropolitan Community Church

Naked protestors and case managers and housing... Oh My!

Hello friends of ACT UP Philly! 

Since we're all busy, let me get to the point... I'm writing to ask you to make a donation to ACT UP today, specifically for two projects ACT UP is taking on. 

I'm sure you saw the big news a few months ago that a member of ACT UP Philly, Leon, joined with our friends and allies and got naked in John Boehner's office to protest proposed cuts to domestic and global AIDS funding -- it was all over the news. The civil disobedience really shook things up and drew much-needed attention on the fact that people with AIDS will be in serious trouble if the Republic proposals to slash spending go through.

Now, because of his bravery, Leon (and the rest of the naked seven) has to trek back and forth to DC for court date after court date. It's getting pretty expensive, so we're hoping you -- a big fan of ACT UP -- can help pitch in a few bucks to cover his travel. Other groups have been kind enough to cover him so far, and we want to do our share too. 

ACT UP disrupts Corbett's speech on MLK Day

Activists call on Corbett to restore General Assistance benefits and expand Medicaid eligibility

Photos for media use below

PHILADELPHIA- Governor Tom Corbett received an unexpected earful during a bell-tapping ceremony at the Liberty Bell on Monday. A group of protesters from ACT UP Philadelphia—a local AIDS activist group that is commemorating its 25th anniversary this year—held signs highlighting the difference between King’s advocacy for economic rights and the Governor’s policies that directly undermine those rights. The group demanded that Governor Corbett reinstate the General Assistance benefits his administration eliminated for 70,000 people statewide in August 2012. ACT UP also demanded Corbett allow the expansion of Medicaid eligibility to 600,000 low-income Pennsylvanians as planned in the Affordable Care Act signed into law in 2010.

“Corbett’s presence at this event, in a crass attempt to tack his name onto the powerful history of Dr. King, is the epitome of hypocrisy. When Governor Corbett cuts General Assistance and denies health insurance to the poor, he works directly against King’s vision,” said Jose de Marco of ACT UP Philadelphia. The group members include people living with HIV who lost GA benefits last year, who explain that they now struggle to pay rent; one is now facing eviction from his apartment as a direct result of Corbett’s GA cuts.

The General Assistance (GA) program was a meager, often temporary program of last-resort ($205/month in most counties) for Pennsylvanians without children who were sick or disabled, domestic violence survivors fleeing abuse, and individuals in alcohol and drug treatment programs. Often GA served as a loan program for individuals waiting for the Social Security Administration to consider disability claims; the state was reimbursed when these applications were approved. During these depths of winter, ACT UP members say the end of GA can be expected to exacerbate homelessness among the chronically ill and disabled. Even more people will turned away from homeless shelters already filled to capacity. And without GA as a safety net, battered women may feel compelled to remain with abusive partners.

Also among the group were medical students who said that the Governor’s unwillingness to commit to Medicaid eligibility expansion to poor Pennsylvanians was placing their patients in peril. As other states, including four with Republican governors, have agreed to expand eligibility as laid out in the Act, Governor Corbett continues his threats to block the expansion of Medicaid eligibility.

The expansion, funded almost entirely by the federal government, would expand Medicaid eligibility thresholds from $5,138/year to $14,404/year for single adults in Pennsylvania. Refusing to accept federal Medicaid dollars could effectively lock poor patients out of healthcare because the Affordable Care Act shifts funds previously used to compensate hospitals for care of the uninsured into Medicaid. If Governor Corbett does not accept federal dollars for Medicaid expansion, hospitals across the state would receive no compensation for the care of many uninsured patients. In the last month, Governor Corbett has stated that he doubts the state treasury has the funds to go along with Medicaid expansion, though independent groups estimate that the expansion would require only a 2% increase in state spending on Medicaid over the next 10 years.

During the year prior to his assassination in 1968, Dr. King devoted almost all of his efforts to the Poor People’s Campaign, a nationwide organizing effort in support of an economic bill of rights including the right to and “a meaningful job at a living wage” and “a secure and adequate income” for those who could not work. He also declared, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is most shocking and inhumane.”


Photos can be used by any media. Credit should be given to Kaytee Riek, ACT UP Philadelphia.

Contact: Luke Messac                                                                                                                                   
Telephone: 518.275.6404                                                                                          
Email: lukemessac (at)

Video: Jose de Marco reads a letter from Asia Russell at John Bell's memorial service

At the memorial for AIDS activist and teacher John Bell, longtime ACT UP Philadelphia organizer Jose de Marco reads a letter from Asia Russell of the Health Global Access Project (GAP), who could not be at the event.

Russell's letter shines a light on Bell's work fighting for HIV medications for all -- an effort that has meant more than 8 million people in the poorest countries in the world now have access to HIV treatment: "In Health GAP, we remember John Bell not only as a local Philadelphia community organizer, legend, activist, teacher, mentor and protester against all forms of injustice, but also as an engine driving grassroots mobilization in support of global treatment access. We would not be where we are today if it were not for his vision."

Learn more about Health GAP at

Video: Waheedah Shabazz-El speaking at John Bell's memorial service, 10/5/12

ACT UP Philadelphia mourns the loss of John Bell, who was a trailblazing organizer with ACT UP, a mentor to countless activists, a lifeline to people in jail living with HIV, and a teacher at Philadelphia FIGHT, where he cofounded the TEACH Outside program. 

At the memorial service for John Bell on Friday, October 5, Waheedah Shabazz-El spoke about his passionate dedication to ACT UP Philadelphia; fighting for HIV prevention and medications for people around the planet; sharing principles for building a better world; and his work teaching and reaching out to incarcerated people living with HIV.

She also speaks about her own journey, made smoother and enriched by his mentorship: "He gave me hope that day.... He gave me the bridge I needed... to come out of that troubled water. And when I came to the other side, there you all were—this loving community."

Video: We Can End AIDS! 5 marches converge for creative action at White House, July 24, 2012

Hundreds of Philadelphians joined thousands of Americans and International AIDS Conference delegates to form five protest marches to the White House on July 24, 2012 as part of the historic We Can End AIDS mobilization. The marches --

**Human Rights and Harm Reduction**
**End the War on Women**
**People over Pharma Profits**
**Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street**
**Promote Sound Policies**

-- met up at the White House, where 13 activists tied condoms, dollar bills, pill bottles, and other tools for ending AIDS to the fence in a civil disobedience action. This video starts with the Human Rights and Harm Reduction march, documents some of the speakers at the White House, and ends with the activists using red ribbons to tie the tools to end AIDS to the White House fence.