If you ever have the opportunity to walk the halls of Congress, make certain to visit the Rayburn House Building and visit the office of US Congressman Alcee Hastings. Unlike Allen West, who claims his office belongs to the people of the congressional district where he was elected, Congressman Hastings means it and has it posted on his office door.
When I resided in the congressional district where Allen West was elected in 2010, his office quickly and cowardly refused to meet with me and other advocates when in Washington DC with the Treatment Action Group for What Would You Do for the Cure, an AIDS research advocacy effort. Granted I have some history with West, but as soon as his staff heard my name they sharply replied, "No, we will not meet with him".
I guess West is still bitter about a gay man living with HIV/AIDS shutting down his town hall.
Over the weekend, I had the chance to sit down with Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-FL) to discuss how important this election is for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV/AIDS communities. On top of the Republican driven voter suppression efforts around the nation, Hastings spoke about the Republican trickery of not challenging key black democrats so black voters are not as fired up this November.
Keep in mind, it was only a few months ago when Speaker John Boehner stated that he hopes black and latinos stay home in November.
Speaking directly to the LGBT community and people living with HIV/AIDS, Hastings urged everyone to get out and vote and spoke about how "this election is about you." He praised the one year anniversary of Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal and reminded people that the sky didn't fall as a result.
Referring to the anti-gay, anti-human GOP platform, Hastings warned that a Romney/Ryan White House and GOP dominated legislative branch would not be a government tolerant or understanding of the civil rights of LGBT people.
Hastings gave a shout out to his friend and colleague Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin as she shows incredible promise to be the first openly LGBT person elected to the United States Senate.
Over the last several years, Congressman Hastings has been an amazing champion in leading the effort to ensure people living with HIV/AIDS have access to lifesaving and life sustaining HIV-medications. Several years ago when Florida was mismanaging its AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), I contacted Hastings and shared with him that the State of Florida wasn't taking advantage of revenue making opportunities by allowing Medicare Part D to participate in sharing the cost of medications.
In the video, Hastings mentions that last week he met with the president of drug company Gilead to specifically discuss the pricing over their new Quad medication. Since the advent of HIV-medications, drug approval and pricing have long been a controversial issue for advocates. Hastings remains outspoken that the private sector must make these medications affordable, especially when substantial federal funding has gone into the development of these medications. Congressman Hastings has remained at the table advocating for people living with HIV/AIDS.