President Donald Trump announced a promise to end America’s HIV epidemic during Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech to Congress.
“In recent years we have made remarkable progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS,” Trump said. "Scientific breakthroughs have brought a once-distant dream within reach. My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within ten years.”
He added, “Together we will defeat AIDS in America and beyond.”
Trump made several other remarks about the American healthcare industry, including a call to protect patients with pre-existing conditions and to lower the cost of prescription drugs in America, which he pointed out are far higher than the price for the exact same drugs in other countries.
Trump’s strategy to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic involves targeting communities with a high number of HIV infections. In the United States, this includes people of color, gay and bisexual men, people who inject drugs and people who are incarcerated, according to the National Institutes of Health. HHS secretary Alex Azar and Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have both backed the plan, Politico reports.
HHS plans to roll out president Donald Trump’s plan later this week.
In 2010, President Barack Obama became the first president to announce a national strategy to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic domestically. Trump has drawn the ire of many within the HIV/AIDS community for failing to address the epidemic during his presidency. In 2017, 38,739 Americans were diagnosed with HIV and 1.1 million people in America are living with the virus, according to the CDC. Until this day, Trump has yet to announce a director of the Office of National AIDS Policy. In June 2017, six members of the president’s advisory council on HIV/AIDS quit in protest and that December, the remaining members were fired, POZ reports. HHS’s Azar announced two PACHA co-chairs in December 2018.
Trump has also previously proposed cutting PEPFAR, a multi-billion dollar global plan that helps fight HIV/AIDS in countries abroad. PEPFAR is one of the most successful health initiatives ever created. Trump also allegedly holds stigmatizing views about HIV and in an immigration meeting, once reportedly declared that Haitians “all have AIDS.”
CDC director Redfield shaped the majority of the policy, per Politico. At an all-hands meeting, Redfield said that existing tools to fight the epidemic, including the widespread use of condoms, are at the plan’s center. No report made any mention of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, in Trump’s plan.
In an op-ed in The Advocate on Tuesday, AIDS activism group ACT UP declared that Donald Trump “does not care” about ending HIV.
The National LGBTQ Task Force also doubted Trump's bona fides when it came to fighting the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“If Trump was serious about HIV, he wouldn’t have proposed HIV funding cuts in his first two budgets," Stacey Long Simmons, director of advocacy at the National LGBTQ Task Force, said in a statement. "If Trump was serious about helping those with HIV and reducing the transmission of HIV, he wouldn’t have abruptly dismissedthe presidential council on HIV and left the council vacant for nearly a year. If Trump was serious about reducing the transmission of HIV, he wouldn’t have selected a vice president that gutted funding for health clinics, leading to an HIV outbreak in rural Indiana.”