The midterm elections will determine the future of HIV advocacy

When the clock strikes midnight on Tuesday, Nov. 8, we will know a lot more about what the future of HIV advocacy holds than when the day began. 

In every election, what happens at the ballot box on Election Day determines a portion of the advocacy agenda for people living with and affected by HIV, but that is especially true this year. With Democrats holding on to the slimmest of majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, any shift in power towards either party could have massive ramifications for the priorities of HIV advocates over the next two years.

Given the historically bipartisan nature of support for ending the HIV epidemic, HIV advocates can expect a certain degree of consistency in funding for HIV prevention, treatment and housing. No matter the composition of Congress in January 2023, there is a strong likelihood of increased funding for the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS program and other federal HIV programs. However, the extent of those gains could largely be determined by which party wins control of the House and Senate, especially for the current fiscal year.

If Democrats retain control of both houses of Congress or narrowly lose one chamber, there is still a chance that a fiscal year 2023 appropriations package will be passed before the incoming Congress is sworn in. On the other hand, if Republicans win both chambers of Congress, we are likely to see a continuing resolution package into the next Congress and potentially for the entirety of fiscal year 23, placing many of the hard won increases to HIV spending in jeopardy. 

The outlook for our other major policy priorities is also uncertain, given the contested battle for control of Congress. The future of reproductive justice is certainly on the line with this election. President Biden has publicly committed to codifying Roe v. Wade into federal law if Democrats retain control of Congress, although the likelihood of this happening without Democrats picking up a significant number of seats is slim. At the same time, if Republicans win control of both houses of Congress, we could see efforts to pass federal abortion bans — though they would have no chance of overriding a presidential veto. Undoubtedly, reproductive justice will remain a contentious policy issue no matter the results next week. 

The future of racial justice remains on the line with next Tuesday’s election. It is likely that if Democrats keep the House and Senate, there will be a greater opportunity to advance racial justice priorities from health access to voting rights legislation. We would see the reintroduction of vital pieces of anti-racist legislation like the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would provide safeguard against racially-motivated changes to state and local voting laws, or the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act, which would declare racism a national public health crisis and establish a National Center on Antiracism and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Neither of those pieces of legislation received support from a single Republican member of Congress, and there is no evidence that they would present any legislative solutions to these issues if Republicans gain the majority.

The plethora of policy issues that hang in the balance during this very close midterm election cycle underscores how important voter turnout is for this election. Many of AIDS United’s Public Policy Council member organizations have been engaged in voter registration and voter restoration efforts. Organizations like Positive Women’s Network-USA have been reaching out to thousands of prospective voters in the lead up to this election, canvassing communities to explain how critical this election is for the country. Their work — and the work of HIV service organizations across the country — to get out the vote is essential, and you can help.

For additional information on how to support voter registration and engagement efforts, see the following links: