Editor’s note: As the country prepares for President Donald Trump’s second State of the Union address, we invited ACT UP NY, the revolutionary HIV/AIDS activist group, to outline how he has directly impacted the disease, and those with it, globally. His speech will reportedly outline his new efforts to end the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2030.
In October 31, 1989, over 100 ACT UP NY activists descended outside of Trump Tower to protest Trump’s role in housing greed and his monstrous symbol of wealth. Protesters in costume and drag demanded funding for HIV housing and called out Trump’s then tax abatement for building Trump Tower. Activists held signs including “Surrender Donald,” “Nightmare on Trump Street,” and “In NYC 10,000 People Living AIDS, Only 64 Beds.”
As we are entering the fourth decade of the crisis and close to 30 years later after this action, our community continues to fight our aggressors and oppressors against the fight against HIV. It’s important to familiarize ourselves with who has fought with us, and who has fought against us — in other words, “know your scumbags.”
Let us break it down for you how this administration further marginalized people living with HIV.
Even prior to Trump assuming office, now Vice President Mike Pence, caused the worst HIV outbreak in Indiana history in 2014 through his negligence of drug users and people living with HIV.
In May 2017, the White House announced intended and deliberate funding cuts to HIV programs including PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), the Ryan White Program, and the Global Fund. These funds administer critical resources in the fight against HIV both domestically and internationally, and cutting them would not only immediately hurt those living with HIV, but also increase new infection rates.
Another example of his commitment to ending the HIV epidemic, Trump fired all remaining PACHA members (Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS — an unpaid council of volunteer HIV educators, activists, and scientists) in December 2017, only 28 days after World AIDS Day.
And in efforts to further marginalize sex workers — a community that has been long neglected in HIV policy work, Trump then signed SESTA/FOSTA under a disappointing unanimous bipartisan vote.
In testament to Trump’s ignorance of basic sexual health, Bill Gates leaked that Trump did not know the difference of HPV and HIV.
“Both times he wanted to know if there was a difference between HIV and HPV so I was able to explain that those are rarely confused with each other,” Gates shared in an interview.
Within the same month, a spike in ICE detainments resulted in the death of an HIV+ trans asylum seeker from Honduras named Roxsana Hernandez.
Continuing the decades of employment discrimination of those living with HIV, the The Trump Administration discharged and fired two service members in the Air Force after disclosing their HIV-positive status to the Department of Defense in December 2018.
And The Daily Beast reported that William Barr, Trump’s Attorney General Nominee, Held Immigrants in an "HIV Prison Camp."
It’s only been two years.
The Trump Administration does not have a history of advocating for people living with HIV, but we do. If this administration is serious about tackling HIV, ACT UP NY demands they prove it by:
- Stopping the criminalization of those living with HIV (29 states have HIV-specific criminalization laws)
- Abolishing ICE (13 HIV+ immigrants have died in ICE detention since 2002; Kaniab Satkunes-Waran, Simon Reyes-Altimirano, Carlos Menez-Bacca, Sergio Jimenez-Rojo, Adetunji Popoola, Jose Rangel Rodriguez, Mauro Romero, Yvel Fils-Aime, Guido Neborough, Samou Fankeu, Roxsana Hernandez, Victoria Arrellano, and Hector Mosley)
- Increasing housing protections and HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS) funding for people living with HIV
- Having the administration repeal SESTA/FOSTA, and increase protections of sex workers.
- Increasing employment protections for individuals living with HIV.
- Having the U.S. expand healthcare for all including medicare and medicaid expansion, a universal plan to rollout PrEP and PEP access. (Follow #BreakthePatent to learn more)
- A federal rollout of U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable) education and funding.
Any 10-year plan to ending AIDS is dead in the water without radical action. Join us in solidarity as we continue our 31 year old history in fighting HIV.
ACT UP NY: Founded in 1987, ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), is a diverse, non-partisan group of individuals united in anger and committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis. ACT UP NY meets every Monday night at 7:00 PM in Manhattan at the The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (208 W 13th St, New York, NY 10011).